It took the Penn State Nittany Lions a long time to get their first Big Ten conference victory of the season, but their first may be the largest upset of the 2012-13 college basketball season.
Before a raucous Bryce Jordan Center crowd, the Nittany Lions defeated the No. 4 Michigan Wolverines, 84-78, to give Penn State its first win over a top-five team since 2001 (per ESPN Stats & Information):
Penn State gets 1st Big Ten win with upset of Michigan. Nittany Lions had not defeated a top-5 team since2001 (Michigan State).— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) February 28, 2013
Leading the way for Penn State Wednesday night was guard Jermaine Marshall. The Lions' leading scorer put together arguably the best game of his career, scoring 25 points (including six three-pointers) and knocking down a critical layup in the waning moments to extend the lead.
The Penn State offense was a problem for Michigan throughout the contest. Six of the seven players Penn State put on the floor scored at least seven points, with three starters hitting double figures.
Ross Travis added in 15 points and was the Lions' savior on the boards, grabbing 12. D.J. Newbill also had 17 points, which helped Penn State outscore the star-studded Michigan backcourt.
On Michigan's side, things looked rather standard offensively. Trey Burke scored 18 points and dished out six assists, while Tim Hardaway Jr. added a team-high 19 points. Overall, Michigan made 51.7 percent of its shots and out-rebounded Penn State, 37-27.
But the Wolverines just could not get the stops when it counted. They were ahead by as many as 15 points during the second half, but collapsed down the stretch against an inferior opponent.
The long-term implications of this loss ultimately fall at the feet of the Wolverines. A No. 2 seed on ESPN's Joe Lunardi's latest bracket projections, Michigan still had the very real possibility of landing a top seed in the Big Dance. After Wednesday night's shocking loss, the team's chances of landing a top seed are negligible at best, as ESPN's Dick Vitale pointed out on Twitter:
Bye byechance 4 # 1 seed as Michigan goes down vs Penn St - life in BIG 10 is a nightmare- where has their D gone?— Dick Vitale (@DickieV) February 28, 2013
On the other hand, the upset win is the reward for an exceedingly difficult journey for the Lions. Expected to be a mid- to bottom-tier Big Ten squad in the preseason, their campaign essentially ended before it began when star guard Tim Frazier suffered an Achilles injury. Yahoo! Sports' Pat Forde noted that Penn State kept playing hard throughout the season despite Frazier's absence:
Good for Penn State, been miserable year since Tim Frazier went down. Kept playing hard, this is the reward.— Pat Forde (@YahooForde) February 28, 2013
And, yes, if you're wondering, CBS Sports' Jeff Goodman, the fans did rush the floor on Senior Night:
Penn State had better Storm the Court if the Nittany Lions hang on here. Senior Night. 0-14 in league. Up 6 on Michigan.— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanCBS) February 28, 2013
As the fans rushed the court at the Bryce Jordan Center and enveloped the players remaining on the floor, it was yet another reminder that anything can happen in college basketball this season.