Spartans hold off Penn State

UNIVERSITY PARK (AP) – A day that started with an altercation with Michigan State teammate Branden Dawson ended with a career performance for Adreian Payne.

In between, there were some tense moments for the scuffling Spartans with an unhappy coach Tom Izzo and 20-plus minutes spent on the bench as punishment before Michigan State asserted control in the second half.

Payne had a career-best 20 points in the 18th-ranked Spartans’ 81-72 win Wednesday night, then paired with Dawson to share responsibility for their spat in Happy Valley.

Coach Tom Izzo left the roommates – and two of his best forwards – on the bench until about 16:30 of the second half.

Payne, a sturdy 6-foot-10 forward, made up for lost time by dominating the post in the second half. He had 13 points on 5-of-6 shooting in a stretch of 6-plus minutes after entering the game with about 16:30 left.

Payne added a 3-pointer – only his second of the season – in the middle of a 20-8 run to help the Spartans (15-3, 4-1 Big Ten) pull ahead midway through the second half.

Their absences gave Penn State (8-9, 0-5) an opening to stay close much of the night. Jermaine Marshall scored 22 of his career-high 29 points after halftime, and added 10 rebounds.

D.J. Newbill also had a career high with 27 points, shooting 8 of 12 from the field and 11 of 15 from the foul line.

“The first half I thought we did a good job. I thought we played hard, did some good things and mixed up our defenses,” Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said.

“But in the second half, Payne comes in and it goes from two or three points to ‘Bam!,” he added. “Fade away; fade away and rebound, 3, layup and one – what a sequence.”

Marshall’s layup with 15:16 left gave the Nittany Lions a 36-35 lead, riling up a Jordan Center crowd eager to see an upset.

But Payne answered with a layup, and the Spartans never looked back. Penn State fell behind by 16 points in the second half before pulling to 73-68-with 1:27 left on a basket by Marshall.

Michigan State went 8 of 10 from the free throw line the rest of the way to hold on.

“We’ve got to do it on defense,” Marshall said. “We’ve got to play better on defense.”

Michigan State center Derrick Nix finished with 12 points on 5-of-5 shooting, while Dawson had five points and five rebounds. Five Spartans scored in double figures.

Payne had the last laugh.

Until he entered the game, the Spartans looked disjointed at times on offense and rushed shots in the first half. Penn State limited Michigan State’s second-chance points.

The Nittany Lions got several good looks in the post, but were haunted by season-long shooting woes early. Still, Penn State finished 48 percent shooting including 55 percent after halftime (15 of 27).

Newbill found success driving the lane in the first half with Payne and Dawson – Michigan State’s top two shot-blockers – stuck on the bench. But the final 16 minutes of the game belonged to Payne, who is on a weeklong roll. Payne was averaging 12 points and shooting 84 percent (11 of 13) over his previous two games entering Wednesday.