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No. 2 Michigan still unbeaten after win over Penn State

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — Jordan Poole is noticing some extra attention from opposing defenses now.

“I think today was the first time that I was actually being denied the ball on the perimeter, so it was something that I had to adjust to,” the Michigan sophomore said. “But we know that we were able to read the coverages. I think that’s something that really started to get us going later in the second half.”

Poole scored 17 points and Iggy Brazdeikis had 16 points and 11 rebounds as No. 2 Michigan returned to Big Ten play with a 68-55 victory over Penn State on Thursday night. It was the ninth straight game in double figures for Poole, who appeared comfortable on a night when his team struggled to get untracked.

The unbeaten Wolverines (14-0, 3-0) weren’t always that dominant while playing lesser competition in December, and the first half against Penn State (7-7, 0-3) wasn’t all that great either from an aesthetic standpoint. The teams combined for 18 turnovers in the first 20 minutes, and Michigan led 25-20.

The Nittany Lions scored the first two points of the second, but the Wolverines responded with a 13-3 run.

Charles Matthews scored 14 points for Michigan.

Mike Watkins scored 19 points for Penn State, and Lamar Stevens added 17 points and 10 rebounds.

Penn State shot 1 of 14 from 3-point range and couldn’t keep up after holding Michigan to 36-percent shooting in the first half.

“I really enjoyed this game, competing. I thought our team showed some real grit and some incredible passion,” Nittany Lions coach Patrick Chambers said. “This is a game we can build on.”

Chambers apologized following the game for an incident in the first half in which he appeared to shove freshman guard Myles Dread during a timeout.

BIG PICTURE

Penn State: Defense is the calling card for this Penn State team. The Nittany Lions have held 12 of their 14 opponents below their scoring average coming into the game. Michigan came reasonably close to its average of 73.2 points, and Penn State couldn’t overcome its 18 turnovers.

“We stayed in the game with them,” Watkins said. “We played our hardest. We just have to limit our mistakes. If we limit our mistakes, I feel like it would’ve been a better outcome.”

Michigan: Only four undefeated teams remain in Division I, and the Wolverines kept their run going with a workmanlike effort. Michigan has won eight straight against Penn State and has won 28 of its last 29 overall — with the only loss coming in last season’s national title game against Villanova.

•••

SIKES, S. ALABAMA HOLD OFF APPALACHIAN STATE, 79-73

MOBILE, Ala. (AP) — Rodrick Sikes scored 21 points and made four 3-pointers and South Alabama held off a late rally to defeat Appalachian State 79-73 in a Sun Belt Conference opener on Thursday night.

Appalachian State’s 12-3 run in the final 2 ½ minutes cut a 14-point Jaguars lead to 75-70. South Alabama’s Kory Holden made a pair of free throws then O’Showen Williams answered with a 3 for Appalachian State. Leading by four, the Jaguars twice made one of two free throws and Appalachian State missed a pair of 3-pointers to finish out the game.

Trhae Mitchell added 16 points and 10 rebounds for the Jaguars (8-6). Josh Ajayi also had a double-double, with 15 points and 12 rebounds.

Ronshad Shabazz led the Mountaineers (5-9) with 21 points and Isaac Johnson added 14 points with six rebounds.

Appalachian State led 25-11 midway through the first half and 31-22 near the five-minute mark before South Alabama, which finished with nine 3-pointers, made four 3-pointers in a 12-0 run to take the lead. and added two more points for a 36-31 halftime advantage.

The Jaguars went up by 11 — 47-36 — on a 3-pointer by Sikes with 14:36 remaining in the second half, maintained a comfortable margin over the next 12 minutes and led 72-58 after another 3-pointer by Sikes at the 2:33 mark.

INJURY

Michigan sophomore Isaiah Livers missed the game. He’s been dealing with back spasms, and coach John Beilein said he’ll have an MRI on Friday.

“He practiced the last two days. He asked out of an extra session on Tuesday because his back was a little sore,” Beilein said. “We worked on it. He practiced fine yesterday, but he woke up really sore today.”

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Wolverines trail only Duke in the AP Top 25 . The Blue Devils face Clemson on Saturday.

UP NEXT

Penn State: The Nittany Lions host No. 22 Wisconsin on Sunday night.

Michigan: The Wolverines host No. 21 Indiana on Sunday.

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More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

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Follow Noah Trister at www.Twitter.com/noahtrister

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