STATE COLLEGE - It went from possibly the worst home loss of coach Pat Chambers' rookie season to possibly his most memorable victory in the span of about 10 minutes.
Then, after trading four-point plays, the better players on the No. 13 Michigan Wolverines roster won out, 71-65 in the Penn State Nittany Lions' regular-season finale Sunday at the Bryce Jordan Center. The game epitomized so much of Chambers' first season -desperately needing another scoring option after Tim Frazier and a dearth of perimeter defense, but just enough guts and gumption to make things interesting.
The loss dropped the Nittany Lions (12-19, 4-14) into a tie for last with Nebraska in the Big Ten standings. Penn State will be the No. 12 seed and play No. 5 seed Indiana Thursday afternoon in the Big Ten Tournament.
"We have to keep doing what we do, but I like to see the heads up and keep competing to the final buzzer," said Chambers. "I don't like to lose, but I'm proud of the way we competed for the last 20 minutes."
Penn State scored 13 straight points to close within six with a little less than 6 minutes to play Sunday, erasing a double-digit deficit carried over from late in the first half as Jermaine Marshall scored seven of his game and career-high 28 points.
Later, Marshall's cutter from the 3-point line closed Penn State within 62-58 with 2:32 to play and Ross Travis' two free throws made it 64-60 with 1:09 to go. Travis finished with a career-high 15 points on 5-for-5 shooting.
But then a spin move out of a double-team and ensuing 10-foot jumper by Tim Hardaway Jr. gave Michigan (23-8, 13-5) a six-point lead with 37 seconds to go and a share of the Big Ten regular-season title with Ohio State and Michigan State.
"We felt we should have won the game," said Marshall. "You know, it's tough being down so much and guys get drained when you fight down 20. But you find that extra push, and coach preaches that every second of the day."
But playing much of the first half without Frazier, the Big Ten's second-leading scorer who picked up two quick fouls, helped put Penn State into a 16-point hole late in the first half. That, and 36 percent shooting to start.
It wasn't until two Frazier free throws and a Marshall 3-pointer at the end of the first half cut the deficit to 11 and made a rally at least look feasible.
Michigan shot 70 percent in the first half, 7-for-10 both inside and outside the 3-point line. Some turnovers and weak perimeter defense allowed some wide-open looks for Hardaway, Burke, Evan Smotrycz and Stu Douglass.
"I can close my eyes and see each one hit the bottom of the net," said Chambers, who recalled playing against Michigan coach John Beilein when he was at Philadelphia University and Beilein was at Le Moyne. "Those were great shots and great spacing. He recruits that, and we can't let missing shots dictate effort, and that's what you saw from some of our guys."
The second half was more of the same until a TV timeout with Michigan ahead 54-35 with 11:24 to play. Then, Marshall said, Chambers implored his team to show some heart.
"I wouldn't say he was upset, but he knew we had more to give," said Marshall. "That's when the fire kicked in."
The effort of cutting Michigan's lead down to six points appeared through when Burke hit a 3-pointer in Frazier's face and then converted the free throw after being fouled. Burke finished with a team-high 19 points and it looked like a telling dagger from a freshman guard who briefly committed to Penn State as a high school underclassman before changing his mind two years ago.
But the Nittany Lions weren't giving up yet, as Trey Lewis responded with a four-point play of his own, sinking a 3 as Michigan's Zack Novak knocked him to the floor in front of the Nittany Lion bench.
"You saw us get tired," said Beilein.
MICHIGAN (23-8): Novak 4-6 2-4 11, Morgan 1-3 0-0 2, Douglass 4-5 0-0 9, Burke 6-10 5-5 19, Hardaway Jr. 4-9 2-4 13, Vogrich 0-2 0-0 0, Smotrycz 6-7 2-2 17, Christian 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 25-42 11-15 71.
PENN ST. (12-19): Graham 1-7 0-0 2, Travis 5-5 5-7 15, Glover 0-3 4-4 4, Marshall 10-18 3-3 27, Frazier 4-16 2-3 11, Lewis 2-5 1-1 6, Colella 0-0 0-0 0, Borovnjak 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 22-55 15-18 65.
Halftime-Michigan 39-28. 3-Point Goals-Michigan 10-18 (Smotrycz 3-4, Hardaway Jr. 3-6, Burke 2-4, Novak 1-1, Douglass 1-2, Vogrich 0-1), Penn St. 6-14 (Marshall 4-8, Frazier 1-2, Lewis 1-4). Fouled Out-Novak. Rebounds-Michigan 23 (Morgan 5), Penn St. 31 (Glover, Marshall 8). Assists-Michigan 10 (Douglass 6), Penn St. 8 (Frazier 5). Total Fouls-Michigan 19, Penn St. 15. A-9,564.