Adreian Payne scored 20 points and grabbed seven rebounds despite missing the first half due to an altercation off the court, and 18th-ranked Michigan State held on for a 81-72 win over Penn State in Big Ten action at the Bryce Jordan Center.
Payne and teammate Branden Dawson, who reportedly got in an argument at the team's hotel which resulted in a scuffle and a dented wall, were filled in by Derrick Nix's 12 points on 5-of-5 shooting from the field and Gary Harris' 14 points for the Spartans (15-3, 4-1 Big Ten), who have now won 15 of the last 19 meetings in the series.
Jermaine Marshall finished with a double-double, scoring a career-high 29 points and pulling down 10 rebounds, and D.J. Newbill donated 27 points and six assists for the Nittany Lions (8-9, 0-5), who are still searching for their first conference victory.
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said in a statement that neither Payne nor Dawson would start the game.
"I've spent my entire afternoon meeting with the players involved, and they are both sincerely remorseful," Izzo said prior to the game. "What makes matters even more confusing is that they are off-campus roommates."
Penn State hung in early on, as a Newbill layup followed by a Sasa Borovnjak jumper brought the Nittany Lions within one, 15-14, with just under 10 minutes remaining in the first half.
Minutes later, an athletic 3-point play by Travis Trice gave MSU a 20-16 lead. However Penn State chipped away and pulled even by scoring nine points over the last 4:37 of the first half to head into the break down four, 29-25.
Penn State started the second half on fire from 3-point range, connecting on three treys, - two from Marshall alone - but still trailed 35-34 thanks to a Denzel Valentine layup and two jumpers by MSU's Keith Appling and Nix.
Payne's absence was noticed, as he came in for the first time just over four minutes into the second half and scored eight straight MSU points, giving the Spartans a 43-40 lead with 12:16 remaining.
Trice nailed a 3-pointer and Marshall quickly answered with another dagger from behind the arc, and the deficit was back to two points, but Payne stayed hot. He started a 8-0, again accounting for all of the Spartans' points during the streak, and MSU increased its lead with under 10 minutes remaining, 54-44.
"He played good," Izzo said about Payne. "Him and Nix are playing better together. Adreian is a good player. He keeps his head on right and does the right things and he's a great player. He's getting to be a better player. His shots are starting to get more comfortable and we're getting more comfortable going to him."
Izzo's squad extended its lead from 10 points at the 8:09 mark to as many as 16, until a Jon Graham basket with 3:15 left brought the Nittany Lions back within 10 at 71-61.
Penn State, however, had no answer for Payne -- or the MSU bench, for that matter -- as the Spartan reserves outscored the Lions' bench by a 39-to-10 margin.
PSU did crawl back within five points, trimming its deficit to 73-68 with 1:27 left, but the Spartans connected on 8-of-10 free throws down the stretch to seal the win.
Marshall scored 22 points and grabbed five rebounds in the second half alone. Penn State even shot 48 percent from the field for the game, but the team's next leading scorer after Newbill and Marshall was Nick Colella, who registered a mere six points.
"It is all about competing for forty minutes," Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said. "It is all about getting better. It is all about taking the next step in this process to get better. They showed some fight towards the end there. They kept playing, which has to be our identity. This is the way it has to be this year. There are going to be ups and downs, but we have to keep playing together."
Penn State has lost its first five Big Ten contests ... Michigan State had 17 turnovers, but Penn State scored just seven points of the visitors' mistakes ... Michigan State owns a commanding 31-7 advantage in the all-time series with Penn State ... The Spartans are currently 3-2 in true road games this season.