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Penn State Basketball

5 Takeaways From Penn State Basketball’s Loss to Michigan State

Penn State was flying high less than a week ago.

But now, PSU has lost two straight and is almost right back where it was before starting its three-game winning streak at the end of January. 

Penn State lost at Northwestern Super Bowl Sunday and did the same at home to Michigan State 80-72. 

Here are five takeaways

A ROUGH OPEN

Technically, Penn State got off to a fast start, jumping out to a 7-2 lead.

But the rest of the first half wasn’t good.

It didn’t take long for Michigan State to grab control. 

Sparty led by as many as 16 in the first half and went into the break up 45-31. Although Penn State played better in the second half, getting out to a 7-1 run and winning the half 41-35, it’s hard to come back from a double-digit halftime deficit against anybody, let alone a Tom Izzo-coached team. 

“Not enough juice in the first half,” Penn State coach Mike Rhoades said in his postgame presser. “Flat. We stood around too much. (We committed) turnovers that led to easy baskets, transition baskets… you give a team that’s on the road confidence and easy baskets, that gets them going, and it got them going.

A big reason for Michigan State’s success in the frist half was this guy.

‘WE LOST HIM’

Michigan State has two of the Big Ten’s premier guards. Tyson Walker, in particular, is a bucket. He averages 19 points per game, which is second to Northwestern’s Boo Buie amongst guards and sixth overall in the league. Walker did his thing in the first meeting against PSU, scoring 22 points and adding five assists and six steals. AJ Hoggard is no slouch, either, coming into the night fifth in the league in assists per game with 5.2. and averaging 11.7 PPG as well. But it was another guard, Jaden Akins, who killed Penn State in the first half. Akins scored 16 points, and although he only had four in the first half, he did plenty of damage.

“We lost him in transition,” Rhoades said. “I thought our ball-screen defense was poor early on and then he got hot out of the ball screen and we had a couple of guys out of position. Two of them for sure, I’ll watch the tape tonight and figure it out. But we just let him get loose, and when (a player) makes one or two (shots,) you have to know who he is. 

“We put Ace (Baldwin) on him more in the second half so he didn’t get any, but then the other guy scored.”

“When Jaden gets it going,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said after the game, “he’s as good a shooter as I have.”

BIG MALIK HALL

As good as Akins was in the first half, Michigan State’s best player on the night was the 6-foot-8, 220-pound Hall. Hall was excellent in the first meeting between these two teams, scoring 24 points and adding five rebounds. He put up bigger numbers in the sequel, going for 29 and 10. It was a balanced night for Hall. He made 10 of his 13 shots including the only three-pointer he took. He also went 8 for 8 from the foul line and added three assists. Penn State struggled to defend in the post. Another big man, 6-foot-11 center Carson Cooper, came off the bench to score 10 points, which is more than three times his season average.

“Hall was a beast tonight… we didn’t have an answer for him,” Rhoades said. “We made him look like an All-American, but he’s pretty darn good.”

Izzo was asked after the game if this was the best he had seen Hall look recently.

“How about ever?” Izzo said. “This is the best basketball I’ve seen him play ever. High school, college, this game tonight.”

NOT MANY LEFT

Penn State has six regular season games remaining, starting with a noon tip Saturday at Nebraska. 

For Rhoades, it’s essential for his team to make the most of that time. 

“You think you have a lot of games when you start your career,” he said, 

“and then you finally realize, you get halfway and you’re like ‘wow, I’m halfway done,” or ‘I only have another year left.’ For some guys, they only have six games left. Maybe a seventh, maybe an eighth. Maybe, and then, that’s it.”

Rhoades then compared two types of pain.

“The pain of discipline to play right so you can win or the pain of regret,” he said. “The pain of regret you can never change.”

BUILDING A CULTURE

Tom Izzo is one of the greatest college basketball coaches ever, and he’s spent all of his nearly 30 years as a college head coach at Michigan State.

Mike Rhoades is in his first year at Penn State, and he’d love to emulate what MSU has been.

“We got beat today by a team with a culture,” Rhoades said. “Period. It’s a well-established culture and we all know about it. It’s probably the best in the Big Ten. That’s where we have to get to someday, and that’s what we have to emulate.”

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