Michigan holds off Penn State with clutch free throws
Caris LeVert scored 18 points, Zak Irvin added 17 and Michigan converted clutch free throws down the stretch to hold off Penn State 73-64 Tuesday night.
Michigan (9-6, 2-1 Big Ten), the defending Big Ten regular-season champion, has relied on 3-point shooting all season and it was no different against the Lions. Irvin, LeVert and Aubrey Dawkins each had two as the Wolverines were 9 of 15 from 3-point range and 24 of 45 overall.
Derrick Walton Jr. added 12 points for the Wolverines. Michigan also had a 31-26 rebounding edge on Penn State as Irvin pulled down nine.
It was the Big Ten home opener for Penn State, which fell to 0-3 in conference play and 12-4 overall. D.J. Newbill scored 20 points and John Johnson had 16 for the Lions, who were 22 of 53 from the field.
Each team was stale offensively to open the second half, but a short hook shot by Ricky Doyle and a dunk by Aubrey Dawkins off a nice lead pass from Spike Albrecht gave Michigan a 45-35 lead.
Back-to-back dunks from Dawkins enabled Michigan to maintain its 10-point lead at 51-41.
But Penn State rallied with a 12-2 run that featured slams from Donovon Jack and Jordan Dickerson, and a Newbill 3-pointer and a nifty drive through the lane to tie the game at 53 at the 7:36 mark.
Three buckets from LeVert, each featuring slick dribbling skills against tight defense from Penn State’s Johnson, gave Michigan a 62-58 edge with 3:04 remaining.
Newbill countered with a short bank shot but LeVert was fouled by Newbill — his fourth — and converted both to keep a four-point lead. LeVert missed the front end of a one-and-one but Johnson missed from 3-point range.
Irvin nailed a jumper, Newbill dribbled into a double-team and turned the ball over, Walton Jr. added a pair of free throws and Michigan assumed a 66-60 lead with 48 seconds left.
Johnson sank a 3-pointer for Penn State but Newbill again turned the ball over and Irvin took off on a fast-break for a 68-63 edge.
Michigan: The Wolverines entered the game shooting 36 percent from 3-point range, good for 43 percent of their offense. Their first two 3-point shots went in and opened a 10-2 lead that forced an early Penn State timeout. Shooting 6 of 7 keyed their seven-point halftime lead. . Michigan’s 9.8 turnovers per game ranked the Wolverines seventh in the nation in that category, but they committed nine in the first half and 15 overall. . Michigan’s John Beilein recorded his 710th career victory against 418 losses.
Penn State: The Nittany Lions’ backcourt of D.J. Newbill (18:49) and Shep Garner (18:35) each had their third foul called on them early in the second half. . Penn State is 1-8 in its last nine games against Michigan and has lost 21 of the past 25 in the series that Michigan leads 31-12. . Penn State was 7-0 at home prior to Tuesday’s loss.