UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - It was hardly the senior night that any of the Nittany Lions would have planned. Despite a slower than anticipated start, Penn State would not go quietly in front of yet another passionate crowd at the Bryce Jordan Center Wednesday night.
"There's going to be some positives taken from this," Penn State head coach Patrick Chambers said. "We'll grow from this and we'll get better from it. That's what I told them in there."
In the first meeting between the two teams this year, there are plenty of things the Nittany Lion can be proud of. Forcing one of the nation's best turnover teams (9.24 per game) to 12 turnovers. Michigan was just 2-4 on the year when committing more turnovers than its opponent.
For Chambers though, it was Penn State's ability to respond to adversity, that had him most pleased.
"I thought our guys competed," Chambers said. "I thought they played hard. To come out and take the lead, we finished off the first half really well."
Michigan came out with an early advantage before the Nittany Lions responded to tighten the score. The once frenzied crowd quieted though as Mike Watkins hit the floor and shortly departed for the training room.
"He makes big plays for us on both ends," Chambers said. "He's a ferocious rebounder, and obviously, there's a trust level with those starting five."
Entering in place of Watkins, senior Julian Moore scored six points in a six minute stretch to bring the Nittany Lions within one, 16-15.
Michigan quickly found its stride from the 3-point line though, knocking down three triples to build the advantage as high as 13, 30-17, before a Tony Carr trey trimmed the gap to 10, 30-20.
Lamar Stevens followed with six straight for the Nittany Lions to send Penn State into the break down 34-26 at halftime.
Inside the locker room, Chambers' message was clear, better defense and more opportunities to put pressure on the paint.
"At halftime, we knew we didn't play well so we talked about our adjustments," Chambers said.
Penn State came out firing in the second half, using a timely triple from Stevens to pull Penn State within five before Carr followed with another to make it a four-point game, 38-34.
With 16:21 remaining, Penn State widened its 8-0 run after a Stevens block resulted in a Carr and-1 on the other end to give the Nittany Lions their first lead since the early in the first half.
Penn State quickly made it a 13-2 run over a 5:05 stretch holding Michigan scoreless for 4:39 in the process, all while widening the advantage to 41-39.
As the Wolverines adjusted and the Nittany Lions started to feel the fatigue of a February schedule most recently featuring Ohio State and sixth-ranked Purdue just a few day prior, Michigan took control from the perimeter.
"Our whole thing was high hands and just don't let them shoot them," Chambers said. "Don't let them get them off, obviously they got 21 off. It's something we can work on, something to grow as we come back to practice because Nebraska takes a ton of threes too."
With senior day gone, the Nittany Lions have just one more test to end the regular season. Headed to Nebraska Sunday, there's still time to find that one percent better the Nittany Lions are working toward.