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The Nittany Lions stifled Penn's offense by holding Jordan to four points on 1-of-11 shooting from the field. STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Maybe it was Saturday's pre-game rendition of Star Wars that made Michael Jordan think he could "skywalk." Entering the game, the Penn junior guard was doing just fine with lift-off, averaging a team-high 18.0 points per contest. But Saturday's showdown at Penn State's Bryce Jordan Arena proved a stark contrast to the Quakers' (2-2) first three games. In a 15,000-seat Big-10 arena that looked like the anti-Palestra, Penn proved that it was "not Penn State," and Michael Jordan was not Michael Jordan. Razzled by a superior Penn State defense, Jordan at times tried to do too much. As a result, he was well below his usual performance level. Dressed in his red-and-black Air Jordan sneakers and traditional No. 23 jersey, the Quakers point guard mustered just four points against the Nittany Lions (6-2) on 1-of-11 field goal shooting. Jordan's inability to penetrate the defense proved a decisive factor in Penn State's 71-55 victory. "Our game plan was to keep [Jordan] in front [of our defense]," Penn State coach Jerry Dunn said. "We watched [game] tape, where he really hurt people with his ability to get in the lane and make everyone else better." By staying in front of the Quakers point guard, Penn State's rotating defenders -- Titus Ivory, Joe Crispin and Dan Earl -- offered Philadelphia's finest a shot selection that was not to his liking. But that didn't stop Jordan from trying to shoot his team back into the game. Unable to penetrate, the Penn co-captain was held to one lonely field goal with 42 seconds left in the first half. The field goal came with backcourt-mate Matt Langel bringing up the ball instead of Jordan. Penn co-captain Paul Romanczuk fed Jordan with a pass just inside the foul line, which he knocked down with a short jumper. It was Jordan's best look at the basket all day. "Michael didn't make shots [from further out]," Langel said. With Penn trailing 30-26 at the break, Jordan tried to elevate his team and make amends for his first-half outside shooting woes by taking more shots. The strategy backfired. Forcing the offense, Jordan proved even less in the way of scoring -- connecting on 0-of-6 shots from the field after the break. As the Penn State defense reduced Jordan to shooting fade-away jumpers, the Quakers' primary scoring threat lost the focus of distributing the basketball to his low-post players. In the second half, Jordan dished out just one assist. Penn's ultimate offensive break-down came with 8:11 left, trailing 55-39. With Penn State on an 18-6 run, Jordan took the ball to the hole on a solo-mission. Jordan never saw Big Ten all-time leading shot-blocker Calvin Booth planted under the basket. The 6'11" senior sent the basketball back to Earth faster than a Scud missile's decent. On the other end, Jordan's man, Joe Crispin, buried a three-point bucket and lifted his arms to the home crowd as if to say "it's over." "We challenged [Booth] unintelligently a number of times during that second-half stretch," Dunphy said. "You can't do that against a good team and a good player like Booth." In addition to the ubiquitous presence of Booth, Ivory's catalytic pressure also forced Jordan to be more conservative, especially on his patented spin move. Aside from his one driving layup that was thunderously rejected, Jordan's errant second-half shooting included five fade-aways -- two from the right base-line, one from the left elbow and two from beyond the arc. Meanwhile, Jordan's other offensive options similarly faded, as Penn front-line scorers Geoff Owens, Jed Ryan and Romanczuk were all held in check from the inside by the Penn State defense. "In order to win the game here today, we have to have at least five guys playing very, very well," Dunphy said. "And we didn't get that kind of effort today. I don't think we had anybody play spectacularly on both ends of the floor." With reserve point guard Lamar Plummer still recovering from retina surgery, Dunphy has relied on Jordan alone to lead the offense. Saturday Penn State shut him down, and with his decline went the rest of the Penn offense. Exposed in the process was Dunn's brilliantly simple strategy -- "stay between the point guard and the basket." Following the first defensive lesson any young basketball player is supposed to learn, Penn State brought Jordan, and the red-hot Quakers, back down to Earth.

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