STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Xavier Tillman Sr. scored 23 points and had 15 rebounds to lead No. 16 Michigan State over No. 20 Penn State 79-71 on Tuesday night.
Rocket Watts added 18 points, Cassius Winston had 14 and Aaron Henry scored 12 for the Spartans who erased a 46-31 halftime deficit to win their fourth straight.
Myreon Jones led Penn State with 16 points while Lamar Stevens had 15 and Mike Watkins had 12.
The Spartans (21-9, 13-6 Big Ten) trailed by as many as 19 with 4:15 left in the first half, but scored the first nine points to start the second.
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It sparked a dominant stretch of play in the paint for the Spartans who took their first lead of the game with 14:29 to play when Tillman dunked to make it 51-49.
Meanwhile, the Nittany Lions, who made 10 of 17 3-pointers in the first half, went 0-for-10 from long distance to start the second.
The Spartans continued to keep Penn State (21-9, 11-8) at bay from there and used a 14-6 run to take their biggest lead of the night, 65-55 with 9:41 left. John Harrar made back-to-back layups to pull Penn State within two with 4:56 to play, but the Nittany Lions wouldn’t get any closer.
The Nittany Lions used a pair of first-half runs to take control early.
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They opened with a 10-2 advantage that featured two high-amplitude, alley-oop dunks from Watkins and a pair of 3s from Jamari Wheeler and Seth Lundy.
Michigan State cut it to 12-11, but Penn State made seven 3-pointers over the next 7:47 as part of 29-11 run that made it 41-22 with 4:15 left.
The Spartans scored the next eight points before Jones added his fourth 3-pointer of the half and Watkins jammed in his third alley-oop dunk of the half to make it 46-31 at halftime.
THE BIG PICTURE
Michigan State: The Spartans’ looked like a completely different team in the second half to hold on to their current momentum. Their movement away from the ball kept Penn State’s athletic defense guessing and helped Michigan State avoid what could’ve been an embarrassing loss.
Penn State: A startling trend has shadowed the Nittany Lions for a few weeks now. They can’t hold onto a lead no matter how big. They needed a last-minute 3-pointer from Dread to win their last home game after leading by double-digits at halftime and had all the momentum in this one until they went into the locker room.
Michigan State: Hosts No. 19 Ohio State on Sunday.
Penn State: Visits Northwestern on Saturday.