Penn State Finds Rare but Encouraging Consistency Against Michigan

Ivan GressleyContributor IJanuary 21, 2009

The Penn State basketball team finally put a complete game together, as it hammered Michigan in a 73-58 rout. 

The Nittany Lions took a seven-point lead into halftime and continued full throttle into the second half, expanding the lead to 25 with just over four minutes left in the game.

Yes, it was a home game. Yes, Vegas favored Penn State by two points. 

By all means, Penn State (15-5, 4-3 Big Ten) winning the game makes sense.  Winning by 15 points happened only because head coach Ed DeChellis got his team to play two good halves of basketball. 

Earlier this season, the Nittany Lions watched their 14-point lead at Indiana shrink to five before completing the 10-point win.  Michigan State embarrassed Penn State for the first 26 minutes of their game.  The Nittany Lions made a furious comeback to get within one point, but eventually lost by five at home.  Penn State toyed with Mount Saint Mary's and saw its big lead get cut to three before winning by five.  

Play like this raises the fans' blood pressure and justifies profanity being yelled at the television. 

At least for one evening, Penn State shattered its inconsistency mold.  The team continued to compete at a high level while it broke the game wide open.

In reality, the Nittany Lions could not afford to call off the dogs with possible trouble lurking: the Wolverines (13-6, 3-4) rallied from 20 points down on the road against the Hoosiers to earn an overtime victory.  They also beat Duke and UCLA. 

Additionally, the bigger the winning margin for Penn State, the better. 

How many NCAA committee members watched the 9 p.m. tip on the Big Ten Network?  Penn State looked terrific in the victory, but for the members that did not see the game, a 15-point win over a team that boasts an RPI of 46 looks impressive too. 

A prospective NCAA Tournament team starts by protecting its home court.  The Nittany Lions have done a great job doing just that, going 11-2 at the Bryce Jordan Center. Penn State's only losses have come against teams in the top 60 of the RPI, but the problem is that the Nittany Lions are 0-3 against top 25 RPI teams.  This is due to their previous inconsistencies.

Penn State fans want to believe that their team turned the corner against Michigan. With its prior track record, it is hard to tell if Tuesday night was just false hope or a sign of bigger and better things to come in Happy Valley.