The Michigan Wolverines already knew the Penn St. Nittany Lions can make things interesting when the shots are falling and the effort's there. In the first round of the Big Ten Tournament, the Wolverines got a friendly reminder.
Facing a squad that lost 14 straight games to Big Ten foes earlier this season, fifth-seeded Michigan battled through a tight first half to pull away from 12th-seeded Penn State for a 83-66 victory Thursday afternoon.
While the Nittany Lions have been the worst team in the conference this season, they've been playing better in recent weeks. That's something Michigan learned the hard way in a stunning 84-78 loss in Happy Valley last month.
Considering that game, fans presumably expected the Wolverines to come out attacking Thursday afternoon, but the team struggled early with inconsistency before finding some rhythm on both sides of the floor in the second half.
After allowing Penn State to burst out to a 14-3 lead in the first few minutes of the game, UM responded with a 21-4 run of its own to take back the lead. At that point, it seemed like the Wolverines would proceed to run away with the game, but the Nittany Lions simply wouldn't go away.
While Penn State never got back the lead after blowing its early lead, it never felt like Michigan was pulling away until the final dozen minutes or so. At one point early in the second half, PSU managed to tie the game up at 39, but it couldn't capitalize on an opportunity to go ahead.
The Wolverines found their groove a few minutes later, expanding a 50-47 lead to 19 points thanks to a game-changing 21-5 run in the middle of the second half.
Just days after being named Big Ten Player of the Year, Michigan guard Trey Burke played well in finishing with 21 points, three blocks and three assists. Reserve big man Mitch McGary may have been the star of Thursday's game, though, posting 10 points on 5 of 6 shooting in addition to 11 rebounds.
Penn State had a balanced scoring attack with three players scoring in double-digits and a fourth falling just short. D.J. Newbill finished with 20 points, Ross Travis posted a double-double (12 points, 11 rebounds) and Sasa Borovnjak knocked down seven of 10 shot attempts en route to 15 points.
Michigan will go on to face fourth-seeded Wisconsin in the quarterfinals Friday.
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