Career nights from Jermaine Marshall and D.J. Newbill couldn't get Penn State past No. 18 Michigan State.
To score a few upsets in the Big Ten — let alone win a conference game — the scrappy Nittany Lions will have to find a consistent third scorer and improve their interior defense.
Six-foot-10 forward Adreian Payne scored 20 points after spending the first half on the bench following a morning scuffle with teammate Brandon Dawson, and the Spartans held on for an 81-72 victory Wednesday night.
Marshall scored 22 of his 29 points after halftime, while Newbill added 27. Both were career highs.
But defense weighed on Marshall's mind after the game.
"We've got to get better on defense, get guys on the same page," Marshall said.
His layup with 15:16 left gave the Nittany Lions (8-9, 0-5 Big Ten) a 36-35 lead, riling up a Jordan Center crowd eager to see an upset.
But Payne answered with a layup, and the Spartans never looked back. Penn State fell behind by 16 points in the second half before pulling to 73-68 with 1:27 left on a basket by Marshall.
Michigan State went 8 of 10 from the free throw line the rest of the way to hold on.
The sturdy Payne made up for lost time by dominating the post in the second half. He had 13 points on 5-of-6 shooting in a stretch of 6-plus minutes after entering the game with about 16:30 left.
Payne added a 3-pointer — only his second of the season — in the middle of a 20-8 run to help the Spartans (15-3, 4-1) pull ahead midway through the second half.
"In the second half, Payne comes in and it goes from two or three points to 'Bam!" Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said. "Fade away; fade away and rebound, 3, layup and one — what a sequence."
Marshall was 10 of 18 from the field, while Newbill was 8 of 12. But the Nittany Lions didn't have anyone else score more than six.
"We need help from other positions," Chambers said. "Guys need to step up. We can't be a two-man show all season long."
Penn State's also hampered without top point guard Tim Frazier, who has been out since November with a left Achilles injury.
Michigan State center Derrick Nix finished with 12 points on 5-of-5 shooting, while Dawson had five points and five rebounds.
The day got off to a rough start after an argument between roommates Dawson and Payne escalated into an exchange of punches in a second-floor lobby of a Penn State campus hotel, before the Spartans boarded a bus for the Jordan Center.
Police were called after a wall was dented at the hotel. The players were expected to pay for the damage.
Izzo said Dawson and Payne wouldn't be charged for the altercation that began over what Dawson said were comments he made to assistant coaches about leaving practice gear in his room.
Both players apologized after the game.
"There were a couple words that escalated into an incident, a tussle," Payne said. "I feel embarrassed and I want to apologize to Penn State and our program."
Both Dawson and top reserve Payne spent the first half watching from the bench before entering early in the second period. Two Penn State students dressed in green behind a basket poked fun at the sparring Spartans, swaying and singing "Why can't we be friends?" during a foul shot.
Payne had the last laugh.
Until he entered the game, the Spartans looked disjointed at times on offense and rushed shots in the first half. Penn State limited Michigan State's second-chance points.
But the final 16 minutes of the game belonged to Payne, who is on a weeklong roll. Payne was averaging 12 points and shooting 84 percent (11 of 13) over his previous two games entering Wednesday.
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