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STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Coach John Beilein had his assistants dig into the Michigan history books this week to give his players an extra bit of motivation.
Then his 13th-ranked Wolverines taught Penn State a shooting lesson Sunday, hitting 59 percent from the field overall, including 70 percent in the first half, before holding on for a 71-65 victory.
Michigan got help from— of all schools — football archrival Ohio State to claim a share of the Big Ten title for the first time since 1986.
“It puts us in position to be in position, if the right breaks go our way, to have a share of the Big Ten championship, which is something that is very important to the University of Michigan,” Beilein said.
Trey Burke scored 19 points and Evan Smotrycz added 17, but the Wolverines (23-8, 13-5) had to wait until the 10th-ranked Buckeyes beat No. 5 Michigan State 72-70 later Sunday to secure part of the crown. The schools finished in a three-way tie for first in the Big Ten.
Jermaine Marshall had a career-high 27 points and eight rebounds for Penn State (12-19, 4-14), including a dunk that riled up the Jordan Center crowd and a layup to close a 19-point deficit with 9 minutes left to 62-58 with 2:38 to go.
But the Nittany Lions couldn’t overcome Michigan’s hot shooting in the first half, which included making eight straight field goals during a 23-4 run. The Wolverines held Penn State without a field goal for nearly 10 minutes during the run.
“It’s very easy when you’re in the situation like we were in to mail it in,” Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said. “As disappointed as I am, I’m excited about” the late comeback.
Freshman Ross Travis added 15 points and six rebounds for Penn State.
Michigan entered Sunday having already sealed a first-round bye in the Big Ten tournament, which starts this week in Indianapolis, and the victory allowed the Wolverines to clinch the No. 2 seed.
Still, Beilein’s club had the shooting touch of a team in contention for a share of the regular season title.
“Now it’s down to one of the opportunities you have to win a championship ... We talked a lot about it, that this is what champions do on this day,” he said. “We certainly weren’t perfect today, but we did a lot of things we needed to do to win this game.”
Tim Frazier, who finished with 11 points, spent much of the first half on the bench with two fouls, leaving the Penn State offense floundering without its lead guard.
But Frazier’s aggressive play and Marshall’s big game helped the Nittany Lions narrow several double-digit deficits, including 56-37 with 9:04 left.
Keep fighting, Marshall then implored his team.
“We gathered as a group and said we’re not going to give up,” Marshall said. “Coach kept preaching, ‘Show some heart, show some heart.’ I think we did that pretty well.”
Like during the entertaining second-half stretch when Burke and Penn State’s Trey Lewis traded 4-point plays after each was fouled on a made 3-pointer.
Marshall’s layup cut the deficit to four points and the teams traded misses before Burke went baseline for a layup to get the lead back to 64-58 with 1:24 left.
Penn State outrebounded Michigan 31-23, but poor shooting left their fans quiet for long stretches of the first half, with Chambers’ pleading voice and urgent clapping the loudest noises in the arena.
Marshall’s play energized the crowd, including a dunk after driving through the Michigan defense to get within 10 points. The sophomore shooting guard kept Penn State in it with leading scorer Frazier having an off day with 4-of-16 shooting.
Burke, Michigan’s quick, cool freshman, scored six points over the final 1:24 to keep the Nittany Lions at bay. Burke at one point in his high school career had verbally committed to Penn State before switching his college choice.
“I go to church a lot ... because that’s a blessing,” Beilein said. “That’s a blessing for that young man to be on (this) team.”
Smotrycz led the Wolverines with 12 points in the hot-shooting first half, when Michigan hit 7 of 10 from behind the 3-point arc.