ANN ARBOR (AP) — Penn State coach Patrick Chambers would have been thrilled to win his Big Ten debut. Instead, he tried to find the positives in an 18-point loss.
The Nittany Lions never led after the first 4 minutes before trailing by as many as 22 in a 71-53 loss to No. 18 Michigan on Thursday night.
“I was very happy that we came in here and were as competitive as we were,” Chambers said. “Michigan is a very good team, and they are ranked for a reason.”
Even when things went right for Penn State — they held Tim Hardaway Jr. to 1-of-7 shooting from 3-point range — it didn’t do the Nittany Lions much good. Hardaway hit 10 of his 11 shots from inside the arc, nearly all on layups or dunks, and scored 26 points for the Wolverines.
“He’s a great player and he’s always going to be tough to stop,” Chambers said. “The problem with playing Michigan is that if you try to stop Hardaway, Zack Novak can hurt you, or Evan Smotrycz or Trey Burke. There’s just a lot of depth over there.”
Michigan coach John Beilein thought Hardaway learned an important lesson from the game.
“I told Tim that I loved his game tonight, because he goes 1 for 7 on 3s and still finishes with 26 points,” Beilein said of his sophomore guard. “A year ago, he wouldn’t have finished with that many points, because he wouldn’t have been able to make those adjustments.”
Freshman point guard Trey Burke added 13 points and seven assists. Not only was he making his conference debut, it was against Penn State, where he originally committed before switching to Michigan.
“I knew it was going to be a more physical game, because everyone had told me that’s what the Big Ten is about,” he said. “It wasn’t weird playing against Penn State, though. I know some of their guys, but that’s it.”
Chambers thought Burke was helped the most by his supporting cast.
“He’s a very solid player, and he does an outstanding job of running Coach Beilein’s offense,” he said. “But if you are going to be a freshman starter in the Big Ten, it is a great luxury to have as many great players around you as he does.
Evan Smotrycz had 10 points and 10 rebounds for Michigan (11-2, 1-0), which has won six straight since losing to Virginia in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. The game marked the first time in five seasons that Beilein has won Michigan’s conference opener.
“You are always curious to see how your team is going to come out in the first conference game, and I was happy with what I saw,” he said. “Obviously, you have to win your home games in this league, because it is so tough to win on the road. We still have a lot to clean up, but
this was a good start.”
Tim Frazier had 20 points and four assists for Penn State (8-6, 0-1), but the rest of the team combined for just two assists and eight turnovers. The Nittany Lions have dropped four of their last six.
“There are a lot of things that we need to do better,” Chambers said. “We didn’t handle their defense the way we needed to do it.”
The Nittany Lions struggled from the start to keep up with Michigan’s young talent.
Burke took control early, turning steals into layups on back-to-back possessions to help Michigan take an 11-5 lead.
Later in the half, Novak assisted Hardaway on a pair of easy baskets, including a dunk that brought the Crisler Center crowd to its feet. The Wolverines led 36-22 at intermission, holding Penn State to 33 percent shooting in the opening 20 minutes.
Hardaway didn’t lose any steam after halftime, scoring Michigan’s first six points of the half to give the Wolverines an 18-point advantage. Penn State never seriously threatened after that.
“We really wanted to close them down, because there have been too many times this year where we have let a lead slip away and then suddenly it is a two or three possession game,” Hardaway said. “Tonight, we got that burst and didn’t let that happen, which is big.”
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