STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- The University of Michigan men's basketball team opened the Big Ten Conference season with a 67-63 victory over Penn State on Wednesday (Jan. 2) at the Bryce Jordan Center. The Wolverines were led by sophomore wing Bernard Robinson Jr.'s (Washington D.C./New Hampton Prep [N.H.]) 16-point, five-rebound performance, while junior forward LaVell Blanchard (Ann Arbor, Mich./Pioneer HS) recorded his 21st career double-double with 10 points and 14 rebounds and senior tri-captain Leon Jones (Battle Creek, Mich./Winchendon Prep [Mass.]) added 13 points in his 30th career start. Penn State received a game-high 17 points from Sharif Chambliss.
Michigan (5-5, 1-0 Big Ten) took control of the tip and scored on its first possession as senior guard senior Mike Gotfredson (Grosse Pointe, Mich./South HS) found Blanchard for a jumper from 10 feet out. Blanchard added a free on U-M's next possession to give the Wolverines a 3-0 lead.
Jan Jagla put the Nittany Lions (4-8, 0-1 Big Ten) on the board with a turnaround jumper from the left block. Chris Young (Plymouth, Mich./Central Catholic HS) gave U-M back its three-point lead as he hit a turnaround jumper for a 5-2 lead. Jagla scored again for the Nittany Lions to make the score 5-4.
Following a Young dunk and Chambliss' long two-pointer, Jones rattled off five straight points for the Wolverines, extending U-M's lead to 12-6. The 5-0 run was highlighted by a Young block of Jagla at the defensive end, which led to Jones hitting a three-pointer at the offensive end.
Daren Tielsch cut Michigan's lead in half as he stepped behind the three-point line and hit the long shot. Chambliss tied the game at 12-12 with a three-pointer of his own, but junior Gavin Groninger (Plainfield, Ind./Plainfield HS) answered for the Maize and Blue as he hit his first three since Dec. 1 against Duke to make the score 15-12.
Sophomore Avery Queen (Moreno Valley, Calif./Redemption Academy [N.Y.]) gave the Wolverines their second six-point lead when he connected on his fifth three-point field goal of the season to push the score to 18-12.
Ndu Egekeze cut the Wolverine lead to three as he slammed home a two-handed dunk. Robinson Jr. answered the Egekeze dunk with a one-handed driving dunk of his own to make the score 21-16. Queen's second three-point basket of the game made the score 24-18, but Penn State scored eight straight points to give the Nittany Lions their first lead at 26-24.
After freshman Chuck Bailey (Detroit, Mich./Martin Luther King HS) went split a pair of free throws, Jones connected on his second three-pointer of the game, giving Michigan back the lead at 28-26. Chambliss put the Nittany Lions in front once again as he hit his second triple of the game to make the score 29-28.
Jones gave the Wolverines their third lead of the game at 30-29, as he scored the 500th point of his career on a driving layup from the right side. Following a Tielsch jumper, Young scored five straight points to give the Maize and Blue a three-point lead at 34-31. Groninger added a pair of free throws to push the lead to five at 36-31.
With 38 seconds remaining in the half, the Wolverines tightened up their defense and held the Nittany Lions to an air ball on a deep three-point attempt, resulting in a shot clock violation.
Michigan took over possession with 1.5 seconds left on the clock. Young inbounded the ball and found Blanchard at the top of the three-point arc. Blanchard caught the ball in mid-air, landed and in one quick motion turned and fired a three-pointer that hit off the backboard and in as time expired, giving Michigan a 39-31 halftime lead.
Robinson Jr. gave the Wolverines a 10-point lead as he stole a Nittany Lion cross pass and drove the length of the court for an uncontested dunk to make the score 41-31. Tyler Smith brought Penn State back within when he hit a jumper in the lane.
Jones put the Wolverines back up 10 as he hit a layup from the right side. Following another Smith jumper, Robinson Jr. hit a three-pointer to give the Maize and Blue an 11-point lead at 46-35. Robinson Jr. scored his sixth and seventh points of the half as he connected on a pair of free throws to make the score 48-35.
Penn State cut the lead to nine as Jamal Tate scored four straight points to bring the score to 48-39. Following a Blanchard dunk, the Nittany Lions went on an 8-0 run highlighted by a pair of Chambliss three-pointers, which led to a Michigan timeout.
Coming out of the timeout, the Wolverines passed the ball around the perimeter and freshman Dommanic Ingerson (Santa Barbara, Calif./Santa Barbara HS) was left alone for a three-pointer. Ingerson's three-point attempt was short, but he followed his shot and tipped the ball to Blanchard, who ended PSU's run with a layup to bring the score to 52-47.
Robinson Jr.'s three-point play at 7:15 gave the Maize and Blue a nine-point lead, but Tate brought the Nittany Lions back within seven as he hit a turnaround in the lane to make the score 57-50.
Senior tri-captain Rotolu Adebiyi (Ann Arbor, Mich./Huron HS) maintained the seven-point lead when he recorded his second career blocked shot. As Jagla drove toward the basket, he pulled up for a jump shot, but Adebiyi came from behind and swatted the ball away.
The Nittany Lions went on a 7-3 run to make the score 60-57 with 5:17 remaining. The streak was highlighted by Chambliss's fifth three-pointer of the game. After 2:02 minutes of scoreless basketball, Robinson Jr. put the Wolverines back up five with a pair of free throws to make the score 62-57.
Jagla cut Michigan's lead to one with four straight points off two hook shots in the lane to push the score to 62-61. With time running out on the Wolverines' shot clock, Queen hit a long two-pointer, giving the Maize and Blue a three-point lead at 64-61.
On the ensuing possession, Smith hit a turnaround to make the score 64-63 in favor of the Wolverines. With U-M up by one point and less than 45 seconds on the clock, Queen found an open Blanchard on the right wing. Blanchard's shot went long, but Robinson Jr. pulled down the offensive rebound and connected on a one-handed turnaround jump shot to put Michigan up three at 66-63 with 27.2 seconds remaining.
Coming out of a PSU timeout, Chambliss missed a long three-point field goal, which went out of bounds off the Wolverines with 9.1 seconds left. Chambliss received the inbounds on the right wing, but missed the three-pointer. Young grabbed the loose-ball rebound and was fouled with 3.8 seconds left.
Young connected on the first of his two free throws to end the scoring at 67-63 and give the Wolverines their first Big Ten Conference win of the season.
The Wolverines will return home Saturday (Jan. 5) for a Big Ten matchup when they play host to the Purdue Boilermakers at 12:17 p.m.
Contact: Tom Wywrot (734) 763-4423