Talor Battle got his swagger back. And so did the Nittany Lions.
It was a game that both teams need to win. Minnesota hoped to solidify their tournament hopes. Penn State was just hoping to remember what it was like to have tournament hopes. At the end of the day Penn State got the win thanks to the return of Talor Battle, some key contributions from a few role players, and some decent free throw shooting.
Talor Battle overcame a poor shooting first half to score 21 points. The spark that got him going came just before the half when Chris Babb stole a long pass from Minnesota at half court and fired it up to Battle standing at the three point line. Battle sank the buzzer beating shot to give Penn State a one point halftime lead. From that point on he was the old Talor Battle again. He was hitting threes, making passes, and finishing his drives.
Battle had the other key play of the game with a minute to go. Penn State was just up by two when he picked Devoe Joseph's pocket and raced to the basket. He used his body to shield the ball as he went up for the layup. He made the shot and drew the foul. Though he missed the foul shot, Jones pulled down the offensive rebound and kicked it back out to Battle at the key. With time winding down Minnesota was forced to foul Talor again, and that time he made both shots to give Penn State a six point lead with a half minute to go.
Chris Babb and Cammeron Woodyard made significant contributions scoring eight and seven points respectively. Babb also had the key steal mentioned earlier. Hopefully the freshmen are starting to get it and we can count on production like that from them every night. This would make me feel better about the 2009-2010 team without Stanley Pringle.
David Jackson seems to be getting his confidence back. He was attacking the basket more and managed to get a layup and a few free throws to finish with six points. But there were one or two times he went to the hoop and got completely rejected. I'm talking ball shoved back in your face and driving you to the ground rejected. Oh well. Good to see him at least being aggressive again.
Stanley Pringle ignited a nice run early in the second half by draining three pointers in three straight possessions. Unfortunately, poor defense on the other end only allowed the lead to be extended from seven to nine.
Penn State shot 75% from the free throw line for the day. I'll take that every game and never complain again if they can do it. They were especially good down the stretch hitting 10-of-13 in the final two minutes. Games are so much less stressful when they do this.
Danny Morrissey didn't play due to a problem with his knee. Though given the contribution we got from Babb and Woodyard, one might say this is a good thing.
Cornley had a slow day only scoring six points and five rebounds. He also had five turnovers.
Andrew Ott only played two minutes. He didn't get a point or a rebound, but he managed to tally two quick personal fouls.
For the second straight game Penn State let a guard come off the bench and torch them. This time it was Devoe Joseph who looked like his shots were being guided by satellite. Joseph shot 8-of-9 from the field and 7-of-8 from the arc to score all 23 of his points in the second half.
The first half was pretty painful to watch. Both teams turned the ball over 11 times with a ton of traveling calls. Penn State was able to fix their problems and only gave the ball up 4 times in the second half. Minnesota gave the ball back another 8 times.
On top of the turnovers in the first half, neither team was shooting well making for a whistle infested low scoring game. Minnesota shot 29% from the field while Penn State shot 36%.
Five games to go until the Big Ten Tournament (@Illinois, @Ohio State, Indiana, Illinois, @Iowa). I still think we need to get to 22 wins to make the tournament. So that makes winning the two home games imperative. The game at Iowa is a winnable game, but not an easy one. Win that and the two home games and we're at 21 wins. Maybe with a win or two in the Big Ten tournament we can sneak in.
But what I don't like about this scenario is that it involves losing our next two games at Illinois and Ohio State. Penn State has momentum now and I hate to see them give that up. To lose another two games could carry over and translate into an upset loss to Indiana. So we can't afford to write off these games against Illinois and Ohio State to keep this momentum going. Luckily, Penn State historically plays well in Champaign. We've won our last two games there and pulled that major upset back in 2006.