University Park, PA (Sports Network) - The fourth-ranked Michigan Wolverines
are clinging to the hope that they can claim the Big Ten Conference's regular-
season title, but they will need to win each of their remaining four games,
and hope for a little help along the way in order to do so.
The final stretch begins on Wednesday night, as the Wolverines pay a visit to
the last-place Penn State Nittany Lions, marking the second meeting between
the teams in the last 10 days.
Michigan is a stellar 23-4 overall, and it owns a 10-4 league ledger. Its
standing in the Big Ten has it in fourth place, but only a half game out of
second, and a game and a half out of first. Two of the teams currently ahead
of the Wolverines remain on the docket, as they will entertain both Michigan
State and Indiana over the next 11 days. Michigan has won its last two
outings, both at home, topping PSU (79-71) and Illinois (71-58).
Penn State's season has been one of total despair, at least with regard to its
status in the Big Ten. The Nittany Lions have lost each of their 14 conference
bouts, the most recent of which being a 64-59 decision at Illinois last
Thursday. PSU is currently 10 games below .500 overall (8-18), and it has won
only seven of its 15 home games.
Michigan owns a 28-11 lead in the all-time series with Penn State, and the
Wolverines have won the last five meetings. They have also been victorious in
their last three visits to the Bryce Jordan Center.
Michigan is one of the more well-rounded teams in the country, averaging 76.0
ppg while permitting just 61.3 ppg. The squad, which boasts four double-digit
scorers, is shooting a lofty 49.4 percent from the field, which includes a
39.9 percent effort from 3-point range, while also logging favorable margins
in both rebounding (+5.0) and turnovers (+2.7). Trey Burke is on pace to
secure both conference and national honors, as he is averaging 18.9 points and
6.9 assists per affair. He is a 49.6 percent shooter overall, who drains
nearly 40 percent of his long-range tries, and he comes up with 3.1 rpg and a
team-leading 39 steals as well. Tim Hardaway, Jr. (15.1 ppg, 4.6 rpg, .402 3-
point FG percentage) and Nik Stauskas (11.8 ppg, 3.1 rpg, .457 3-point FG
percentage) complete what is arguably the top backcourt trio in the nation,
while Glenn Robinson III (11.3 ppg, 5.5 rpg) contributes up front. Burke
scored 26 points and dished out eight assists in the recent win over Illinois,
and in the process became only the seventh sophomore in school history to
reach 1,000 career points. Hardaway, Jr. added 13 points and seven rebounds,
and Robinson III chipped in with 10 points for a Michigan team that shot 51
percent from the floor, while holding the Fighting Illini to 41.2 percent.
Penn State's primary problem is scoring, as the team averages a mere 61.2 ppg
in hitting just 38.8 percent of its field goal attempts, which includes a 28.3
percent showing from beyond the arc. The team does own a positive rebounding
differential (+2.0), but it is in the red in turnover margin (-1.2) and relies
heavily on the play of two players -- guards D.J. Newbill (15.8 ppg, 5.6 rpg,
4.0 apg) and Jermaine Marshall (15.0 ppg, 4.5 rpg). No other Nittany Lion
averages more than 6.9 ppg, and the team was once again stymied in last week's
bout with Illinois, as it converted 43.8 percent of its total shots, committed
16 turnovers, and was outscored at the foul line, 23-9. The Lions did manage
to record a 34-25 edge on the glass, and they drained 8-of-19 3-point
attempts, all while holding the Illini to 39.5 percent field goal efficiency,
which included a 29.2 percent effort from beyond the arc. Marshall led all
scorers in the game with 20 points, while Sasa Borovnjak added 17 and Newbill
finished with a dozen points and five assists, but committed seven turnovers.
The Sports Network