After suffering back-to-back road losses, the fourth-ranked Michigan Wolverines return to the comforts of the Crisler Center for a Big Ten Conference tilt on Sunday afternoon against the last-place Penn State Nittany Lions.
After starting the season a solid 8-4, PSU has fallen hard during its Big Ten slate, losing all 12 of its games to date. The Nittany Lions fought hard at home versus Iowa on Thursday night, but eventually fell in a 74-72 final. Penn State is 7-8 at home this season.
Michigan was awarded the top spot in the AP poll in late January, but since then its elite status has been put in question with losses in three of four. The Maize and Blue failed to conquer any of their recent difficult road tests at Indiana (81-73), Wisconsin (65-62 in OT), or Michigan State (75-52), but the good news is that they have been flawless in 14 games at the Crisler Center this year.
Michigan has defeated PSU on four straight occasions to improve its lead in the all-time series to 27-11.
PSU trailed by 12 with less than 11 minutes to play in its latest game against Iowa, and although it ripped off a 15-4 run over the next six minutes to cut its deficit to just two, it failed to get over the hump as it lost by that same margin. The Nittany Lions pieced together a solid effort at the offensive end of the floor, shooting 44.3 percent from the field while committing a mere six turnovers, but the difference came at the foul line where they were outscored by the Hawkeyes, 20-10. D.J. Newbill was outstanding with 26 points and eight rebounds, Jermaine Marshall chipped in 14 points and a career-high 10 assists and Sasa Borovnjak also scored 14 points. Despite scoring a lowly 60.8 ppg on a league-worst 38.4 percent field goal shooting, PSU still has a pair of stellar playmakers in Newbill (16.2 ppg) and Marshall (14.7 ppg), who rank fifth and seventh in the Big Ten in scoring, respectively. Newbill also hands out 4.0 apg, but he has been plagued by nearly as many turnovers (3.8 pg). In addition to a poor offensive attack, the Nittany Lions also surrender the most points in the league (67.3 ppg).
Michigan had far and away its worst all-around performance of the season in Tuesday night's loss at Michigan State, as it shot less than 40 percent from the floor, never led in the game, and trailed in the blowout by as many as 31 points. Trey Burke managed to transcend the poor performances of his teammates by netting 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting from the field, including 3-of-5 from 3-point range, while tallying four assists and three steals as well. Nik Stauskas was the only other player in double figures with 10 points. Burke is well on his was to All-America status, as he ranks second in the Big Ten in scoring (18.2 ppg) and first in assists (7.0 apg), all while shooting extremely well from the floor (.486) for a guard that stands just six feet tall. The Wolverines are far from a one-man team, however. Tim Hardaway, Jr. is an great second option with 15.5 ppg, while Stauskas (12.0 ppg) has drained 61 3-pointers at an outstanding percentage (.477). Glenn Robinson III pours in 10.9 ppg on 56.1 percent from the field to go along with 5.4 rpg for Michigan, which produces 76.0 ppg while permitting just 61.0 ppg for the Big Ten's second-best scoring margin (+15.0).