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After rare Penn State win at Michigan State, Tom Izzo says Lions 'stronger, tougher team'

LARRY LAGE
The Associated Press
Penn State players and coaches react near the end of the team'sNCAA college basketball game against Michigan State, Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020, in East Lansing, Mich. Penn State won 75-70. (AP Photo/Al Goldis)
Penn State's Mike Watkins dunks on an alley-oop, over Michigan State's Gabe Brown, left, and Xavier Tillman, right, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020, in East Lansing, Mich. (AP Photo/Al Goldis)

EAST LANSING, Mich. — Patrick Chambers is on a quest to keep Penn State's basketball program hungry and humble as it surges in a successful season.

Lamar Stevens had 24 points and Myreon Jones made a career-high six 3-pointers and scored 20 points, leading the 22nd-ranked Nittany Lions to a 75-70 win over No. 16 Michigan State on Tuesday night.

The Nittany Lions (17-5, 7-4 Big Ten) have won five straight games in the Big Ten for the first time and have become contenders in the conference during the second half of the regular season.

“It’s great that we're in the position we’re in," Chambers said. “But if you focus on that, that’s when you start to slip."

The Spartans (16-7, 8-4) dropped consecutive games for the first time this season. They also lost to a Big Ten team at home for the first time this year.

Michigan State's Cassius Winston scored 25 points, but could not convert on two chances to pull into a tie in the closing seconds.

“It sure wasn’t his fault," Spartans coach Tom Izzo said.

Winston certainly didn't get much help offensively from his teammates, none of whom scored in double digits.

Stevens made two free throws to give Penn State a three-point lead with 16 seconds left. Winston had an opportunity to tie the game with a three-point play on the ensuing possession, but missed the free throw.

Stevens then made two free throws to restore the three-point lead with 9.1 seconds left.

Winston missed a 3-pointer the next time down the court.

“They made us scramble a bit, but I got a good look at the rim," he said. “That's a shot I usually make."

The Spartans were forced to foul Curtis Jones, who made two free throws to seal Penn State's first victory at Michigan State since 2009 and just the second in 25 games.

“It’s great that we got a win here," Chambers acknowledged.

Penn State was in control for much of the game, leading by as much as 11 in the first half and by six at halftime. The Nittany Lions played with composure in the second half when the Spartans tried to rally.

“They were the stronger, tougher team," Izzo lamented. “We got nobody to blame, but ourselves.”

Key stats: Penn State scored 21 points off Michigan State's 15 turnovers and had 15 second-chance points off 11 rebounds.

Big picture: Penn State has already matched its total of Big Ten victories last season and should surpass its school record of 10 Big Ten wins. The Nittany Lions have set a school record with four road wins in the Big Ten.

“We’ve definitely have come a long way in one year," Stevens said. “The potential of this team, the sky is the limit."

The Nittany Lions are in a position to earn an NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011 in their final season under coach Ed DeChellis.

“It’s not March," Chambers said. “We didn’t punch our ticket yet."

Poll implications: The Nittany Lions have a chance to move into the top 20 with another win this week and the Spartans could plummet in or perhaps out of the poll with another setback this week.

Up next: Penn State hosts Minnesota (11-10, 5-6) on Saturday. Michigan State plays rival Michigan (13-9, 4-7) on the road Saturday.