With Branden Dawson and Matt Costello returning to the lineup, MSU (12-0, 1-0) looked to steamroll the up-and-coming Nittany Lions (9-5, 0-1). Dawson missed the New Orleans game with an injured shin, and Costello missed the last four games with mono.
In his last press conference, Tom Izzo said his team would have their work cut out for them in Happy Valley.
The Spartans stumbled out of the gates, finding themselves in a 10-3 hole in the opening minutes of the game. MSU was as cold as the weather outside, starting 2-10 from the field. Penn State was lights out from deep, going 7-12 from three-point land in the first half.
Michigan State was able to claw their way back, taking a two-point lead with six-and-a-half minutes remaining in the first half. But Penn State quickly responded with an 18-4 run of their own to retake the lead. The Nittany Lions had a 47-40 edge at halftime.
Michigan State would not trail for long in the second half. Gary Harris came out blazing, scoring eight of the team’s first 10 points of the half.
MSU went on a 10-0 run before the first TV timeout to take a 50-47 lead. Branden Dawson made his presence felt in the second half as well, scoring 12 points, grabbing four rebounds and picking up two blocks along the way.
Once the Spartans got on a roll, Penn State had no chance at a comeback. The Nittany Lions could only muster 16 points in the second half while shooting 5-20 from the field.
The Spartans continued their hot outside shooting, going 5-9 beyond the arc in the second half. Michigan State kept extending their lead throughout the half, eventually winning 79-63.
Branden Dawson did not miss a beat after sitting out against New Orleans. The junior led all scorers with 20 points on 8-14 shooting and added nine rebounds. Adreian Payne was quiet throughout the game, only scoring five points on five shots.
Travis Trice contributed 12 points from the bench, and Matt Costello was held scoreless in 12 minutes in his return. Michigan State dominated the glass, out-rebounding the Nittany Lions 45-26.
Michigan State will travel to Bloomington to square off against the Hoosiers on Saturday before hosting Ohio State next Wednesday.
The Big Ten will be a far cry from a cakewalk this year, with three teams in the top-five and four in the top-25 in the nation. The Indiana game will be played at 2 p.m. and will air on CBS.
Blake Froling is a multimedia journalist for Impact Sports.
Photo: Justin K. Aller/Getty Images