Encouraging effort falls short for Penn State's men's basketball team
Penn State guard D.J. Newbill (2) is defended by Michigan forward Jon Horford (15) in the second half Sunday at Crisler Center in Ann Arbor, Mich.
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ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Penn State is still winless in Big Ten play this season.
In fact, it has been more than a year since the Nittany Lions won a conference game.
Penn State coach Patrick Chambers, though, was encouraged by some of what he saw in a 79-71 loss to No. 4 Michigan Sunday at Crisler Center.
"The energy, attitude and resolve we've had has been incredible," Chambers said. "We're getting better. A couple weeks ago, we wouldn't have been in this game."
Trey Burke scored a season-high 29 points and freshman Glenn Robinson III matched a career high with 21 to help the Wolverines win a game they never dominated.
Michigan had dropped three of its past four, including a 23-point loss at No. 8 Michigan State Tuesday, and needed a half to shake off its slump.
The Wolverines appeared to be struggling to get over their blowout against the rival Spartans when they trailed for much of the first half against the conference's last-place team.
"They were knocking down 3s and they were getting to the basket for some easy points," Robinson said.
The Nittany Lions (8-17, 0-13) led by as many as eight points in the first half. They took the lead seven-plus minutes into the game and remained ahead until Burke made a tying, off-balance fadeaway with 55 seconds left in the first half.
"It was an incredible shot," Chambers said. "It looked like he was going to pass it, but he hung in the air long enough that he could change his mind and shoot it. And, he's talented enough that he made it."
Jermaine Marshall and Sasa Borovnjak each scored 17 points, and D.J. Newbill and Ross Travis had 11 points apiece for the Nittany Lions. Penn State, coming off a two-point loss to Iowa, is desperately trying to win a Big Ten game for the first time since beating the Hawkeyes Feb. 16 of last year.
"The first half went as well as it could've for us, but giving up almost 50 points in the second half was not executing our game plan," Chambers said. "We've got to learn how to make plays down the stretch to win."
Robinson appeared to help the Wolverines (22-4, 9-4) pull away with eight-point leads early in the second half. The Nittany Lions, though, did not wilt easily. Penn State pulled within a point midway through the half, but could not get the lead back.
Robinson played well after a poor performance at Michigan State, where he matched a season low with two points.
"He probably had four or five dunks to do a good job of igniting them," Chambers said.
Tim Hardaway Jr. was ineffective offensively for a second consecutive game, scoring eight points on 3 of 11 shooting after equaling a career low with two points on 1 of 11 shooting against the Spartans.
Freshman Nik Stauskas had 18 points, giving the Wolverines the third scoring option they needed to avoid an upset.
"I told the guys," Burke said, "this was a gritty, not pretty, win."
Penn State travels to Illinois to take on the Fighting Illini Thursday night before a rematch with Michigan Feb. 27 at Bryce Jordan Center.
First Published February 18, 2013 12:00 am