The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Sports

January 14, 2014

Michigan cruises past Penn State

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Derrick Walton is settling into a comfort zone – just in time for Michigan’s first difficult stretch of the Big Ten schedule.

Walton scored 16 points – including the game’s first eight – and the Wolverines remained unbeaten in conference play with an 80-67 victory over Penn State on Tuesday night. Nik Stauskas scored 13 of his 21 points in the second half for Michigan, which now faces Wisconsin, Iowa and Michigan State in succession.

“The first couple games, everything was going really fast for me,” said Walton, the freshman who has replaced star Trey Burke as Michigan’s point guard. “Just watching film and stuff like that, it’s just really slowing down the game.”

The Wolverines (12-4, 4-0) led 47-45 when a 3-pointer by Stauskas started a 19-5 run that gave Michigan a comfortable advantage. Glenn Robinson III added 15 points for the Wolverines.

D.J. Newbill and Tim Frazier scored 17 points apiece for Penn State (9-9, 0-5), but those two backcourt standouts weren’t enough against a balanced Michigan team. The Wolverines have won six straight, all without star big man Mitch McGary, who is out indefinitely because of a back injury.

Michigan and rival Michigan State are the Big Ten’s only teams without a conference loss.

“There’s a lot of things that are happening out there that allow us to continue to improve,” Michigan coach John Beilein said. “When we go to Wisconsin, we’ll see how good an offensive team we are.”

The Wolverines play at Wisconsin on Saturday, then host Iowa before the showdown at Michigan State on Jan. 25.

Walton has been gaining confidence after taking over the point guard duties when Burke went to the NBA. Walton made a big driving layup at the end of Michigan’s win at Nebraska last week, and he started Tuesday’s game with two 3-pointers and a layup.

He ended up shooting 6 of 9 from the field.

“To see him do that, I just hope that he takes that into the rest of the games,” Michigan forward Jon Horford said. “Have confidence in yourself always, and understand that sometimes it’s your game, but it’s not always going to be your game. And when it’s not your game, still keep your mind right and still have that confidence.”

Horford gave Michigan a boost inside with 11 points and seven rebounds.

Walton’s start put Michigan up 8-0, and at that point Penn State had four turnovers and only one shot attempt. After a 3-pointer by Spike Albrecht and a dunk by Jordan Morgan, the Wolverines led 30-18.

Michigan led by as many as 14 in the first half, but it was 40-33 at halftime, and the Nittany Lions hung around for a while. With the Wolverines ahead by only two, Stauskas connected from beyond the arc to make it 50-45. Newbill answered with a jumper, but Michigan scored the next nine points, including a three-point play by Caris LeVert and an alley-oop dunk by Robinson from LeVert that made it 59-47.

Penn State upset Michigan in February for one of its two Big Ten victories last season. The Nittany Lions never led Tuesday. Frazier did have six assists, passing Dan Earl for second place on Penn State’s career list. Frazier has 576.

In the final seconds, the Nittany Lions allowed a dunk by Robinson, and Penn State coach Patrick Chambers did not seem pleased with the defensive effort. After a layup by Frazier, Chambers called time with 12 seconds left and was animated when his team huddled up.

“I know the fans are booing me. I have a young team,” Chambers said. “They’re looking at the clock and they’re thinking, ‘All right, we lost and it’s time to get out of here.’ That’s youthful. It’s this generation and somehow we’ve got to change that. It’s my job to change it, I’m just trying to teach them a lesson that that’s not Penn State basketball.”

 

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