Michigan defeated Penn State last night, 68-55, to improve to 14-0 on the year.
The game was a bit tighter throughout than the final score would indicate, with the Nittany Lions trailing by eight with just 5:43 remaining.
Despite the setback that dropped his team to 7-7, PSU head coach Pat Chambers was happy with the way his club competed in Ann Arbor last night.
“Michigan is a great team and is No. 2 for a reason,” he stated afterward. “Our team showed some real grit and incredible passion, because there were moments where Michigan could have easily gone up by 20.
“I knew it’d be difficult for us to score on them, hence the 1-for-14 from three-point range. We had some guys shooting the ball well coming in, but they just took that away and made it difficult for us to score.
“We play them again in a few weeks, so this was definitely something we can build on.”
Chambers was especially pleased with his club’s defensive effort, holding the Maize and Blue to just 25 points in the first half.
Michigan wound up shooting 45.5 percent for the game (below its season average of 46.7), but exploded for 43 points in the second half.
“To hold them to 25 was great for us,” the PSU head man explained. “We mixed up some things and kept them off balance and challenged most of their shots, although they did miss some easy ones.
“The turnovers hurt us though — we were playing some youth out there, and they were fired up to play in a big game like this at Michigan.”
Penn State actually mixed up their starting lineup a bit coming in, choosing to bring redshirt junior center Mike Watkins off the bench.
Watkins — who is averaging 7.9 points and 7.3 rebounds per game — responded to his new role well, holding junior center Jon Teske to just five rebounds (tying his second lowest total since Nov. 17) in 32 minutes of action.
“I didn’t start Mike, and sometimes kids sulk, but he responded,” Chambers gushed. “That’s what it’s all about. He didn’t put his head down, but instead competed — it’s the best he had played all year.
“Teske is one of the best defensive five-men around — he’s changed his body and is long, but Watkins did a good job against him.”
Freshman forward Ignas Brazdeikis put the game away when he nailed a corner three that extended Michigan’s lead to 63-51 with just two minutes left, but Chambers admitted he almost employed a different strategy prior to the Canadian’s basket.
“We had considered fouling on that possession,” he recalled. “We asked about it in our huddles, but instead tried to blitz them at the end there.
“They made a nice play, and it was a big-time shot by that freshman — he’s a really good player.”
Finally, the ESPN cameras showed an altercation on the bench between Chambers and freshman guard Myles Dread during the game, and the PSU head man addressed it to the media afterward.
“I absolutely love Myles Dread,” Chambers exclaimed. “He committed to us as a sophomore [in high school], so I’ve known him and his parents forever.
“I apologized to him and was just trying to challenge him and get the best out of him. I will do it a different way next time. He’s a great kid.”
Michigan’s next game is at home against Indiana on Sunday, and the Wolverines will be looking to improve to 15-0 with a win against the Hoosiers.
The program’s best-ever start to a season is 16-0 (which was done in 2012-13), and victories over the Hoosiers and then at Illinois on Jan. 10 would match that start.