In the last few weeks the Nittany Lions have been shaking up the conference with some significant wins over nationally-ranked programs, but that wasn't the case on Tuesday night when the team bowed to Illinois on the road in a 68-51 final. The defeat snapped a two-game win streak by the squad and dropped the Lions to an even 5-5 in league play.
As for the Wolverines, they too had a two-game win streak snapped this week as they fell to top-ranked and undefeated Ohio State on Thursday night in a 62-53 final. Michigan, which is set to host a pair of Big Ten contests this coming week, is now just 3-7 in conference play.
With respect to the all-time series between these two schools on the hardwood, Michigan leads by a count of 24-11, although the advantage dips to just 18-8 when adjusted for sanctioned games. The Wolverines won the first meeting of this season at home back in January with a 76-69 decision.
Michigan actually held a three-point lead at the break on the road against top-ranked Ohio State a few nights back, but in the second half the Wolverines were outscored at the free-throw line by a 12-1 margin and that made all the difference. Tim Hardaway Jr. finished with 15 points and five rebounds for the visitors to Value City Arena, followed by Darius Morris and Jordan Morgan with 12 and 10 points, respectively, as the squad finished the outing with just four total trips to the free-throw line. Morris leads the team in scoring overall this season with his 15.3 ppg, shooting an impressive 51.0 percent from the floor. Morris has converted just 28.8 percent from three-point range thus far, but he's made up for that lackluster effort by becoming one of the nation's top passers with a staggering 162 assists through 23 outings. Even more remarkable is that he has just 70 turnovers at this stage. Hardaway Jr. checks in with 11.9 ppg for a group that is producing a modest 66.5 ppg thus far.
The Nittany Lions lost a game against Illinois on Tuesday night, but they also lost something a lot more important as Jeff Brooks went down with a dislocated shoulder and is now out of action for the foreseeable future. Without Brooks in the paint, the team finished with just 28 rebounds and shot a mere 33.3 percent from the floor. Talor Battle and Tim Frazier finished with 12 points apiece to pace a lackluster offense that shot a collective 2-of-17 beyond the arc on the night. Trying to fill in the gap left by Brooks will not be an easy one since he was the second-leading scorer on the roster with 13.5 ppg and was tops on the glass with 7.2 rpg. Obviously Battle will feel more of the pressure to improve upon his 20.0 ppg and David Jackson (10.6 ppg) will be expected to hit the boards a little harder in the absence of Brooks. But with PSU scoring just 64.4 ppg at this stage, the Lions will be lucky to crack the 60-point plateau if they don't get things patched up in a hurry.
Expect a low-scoring affair between these two squads and even though PSU is at home, the loss of Brooks will certainly take its toll.
FACTS & STATS: Site: Bryce Jordan Center (15,621) -- State College, Pennsylvania. Television: Big Ten Network. Home Record: Michigan 11-4, PSU 11-3. Away Record: Michigan 2-4, PSU 1-6. Neutral Record: Michigan 0-2, PSU 0-0. Conference Record: Michigan 3-7, PSU 5-5. Series Record: Michigan leads, 24-11.
Sunday, February 6th, 12:00 p.m. (et).