2008-2009 Season

Game 23: Penn State at Michigan Preview

: Penn State (17-5) at Michigan  (14-8)
Where: Crisler Arena, Ann Arbor, MI
When: Thursday, February 4th, 7 PM
Spread: Michigan by 4
Preview: Stat Sheet, U-M KenPom Profile, Penn State KenPom Profile
Radio: MGoBlue, WWJ-AM (950), WTKA-AM (1050)
Opposition Blog: Crispin and Cream, Black Shoe Diaries

Penn State systemically destroyed Michigan in their first meeting. They established the inside game early on with Jamelle Cornley and then blasted the game open in the second half with the three point shot. Talor Battle, Stanley Pringle, and Danny Morrissey combined to shoot 9 of 13 on three pointers while Jamelle Cornley scored 17 points on 8 of 10 shooting while pulling down 11 rebounds.

These two teams are headed in different directions right now. Penn State has won four in a row including a huge road win at the Breslin Center. Michigan has lost five of their last six and doesn’t look anything like the team that beat Duke 2 months ago. Penn State fans are jumping on the bandwagon while Michigan fans are trying to get off.

Michigan is searching for answers right now. This is a team that needs something to spark them and get them going again. Maybe the elbows, maybe the embarrassment of their loss at Penn State, or maybe the NCAA tournament. I don’t care what it is, they need to start playing now or it will be too late.

Michigan showed signs of life in the first half against Purdue that they hadn’t shown at Penn State or Ohio State.  They battled and scrapped and even when their shots weren’t falling they played tougher defense than most of what we have seen for most of this year. Michigan will need to bring that first half intensity for 40 minutes if they are serious about beating the Nittany Lions.

Penn State’s statistical profile isn’t much different than the first time Michigan faced them. In bullet form:


  • Three Point Shooting: 39.4% three point field goal percentage (15th nationally)
  • Holding on to the ball: 17.1% turnover% (11th)
  • Three point defense: Opponents shoot 29.8% from long range (11th)
  • Keeping opponents off the line: Opponents FTA/FGA = 25% (7th).
  • Defensive Rebounding: 72.1 defensive rebounding percentage (7th)


  • Forcing turnovers: Only force turnovers on 19.1% of their opponents possessions (261st)
  • Blocking Shots: 4.8 block% (324th nationally)
  • Shooting free throws: 64.6% from the line ranks 286th nationally
  • Depth: Only 25.1% of Penn State’s minutes come from the bench (302nd)

A look at Penn State’s personnel invariably has to start with Talor Battle, who appears to be a clear favorite for Big Ten Player of the Year. Battle is averaging 19 ppg, 5.3 apg, and 5.5 rpg while shooting 41.1% from long range. Any Michigan fan that watched the first game is aware of what Jamelle Cornley, Stanley Pringle and Danny Morrissey can do as well.  Cornley has been on fire during PSU’s last 5 games, averaging 20 ppg and 7.25 rpg. Morrissey continues to struggle with his shot but he hit three of four triples against Michigan. Stanley Pringle is the final Penn State sniper and he’s hitting 50% from three point range, higher than his overall shooting percentage.

Similar to Northwestern, Penn State is coming to Ann Arbor after a big win in East Lansing. Michigan handled Northwestern with relative ease and I wouldn’t mind seeing a similar outcome against the Nittany Lions. Unfortunately it’s not going to be that easy. Penn State looks to be the real deal but they still have their work cut out for them if they want to make the tournament. The Nittany Lions didn’t play much of anyone in the non-conference season and may need to win as many as 11 games in conference to make the dance.

I think this one comes down to defense. If Michigan can slow down Penn State’s dynamic offense they can pull this one out at home. If not, it’s going to be a rough month or so for Michigan fans as Michigan’s tournament chances continue to drop.

Thoughts, predictions, and in game discussion in the comments.

Pre-Game Reading (updated throughout the day):

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