In Penn State's game plan for its 66-63 victory against Minnesota on Thursday evening at the Bryce Jordan Center, it's unlikely "shoot 31 triples" popped up anywhere. Man, did it ever work out for the Nittany Lions, though, especially at the most critical time in the game, as Penn State grabbed another NCAA Tournament resume building win before it's home crow
Talor Battle had been launching threes all night when the Lions found themselves down one with just over a minute left. When he launched his final trey of the night, however, the Jordan Center was whipped into a frenzy as the senior sunk his seventh of the night to give Penn State a lead it wouldn't let go of the rest of the night.
The senior finished with 28 points to lead all scorers. David Jackson finished with 13 points and five rebounds and Tim Frazier posted a productive line of eight points, eight assists and three rebounds.
Penn State pulled back to .500 at 7-7 in the Big Ten with the win and took sole possession of fifth place in the standings, the all-important last spot for a bye in the conference tournament in a few weeks. It was also Penn State's fourth top 50 RPI win of the season, something the NCAA Tournament selection committee will look at carefully as it selects teams to go dancing.
Overall, it was a productive, though nervewracking night for the Lions, but they did what they had to do, came up with a win, and stayed alive in their hunt for an at-large bid. Next stop: Madison on Sunday to face No. 11 Wisconsin at the Kohl Center. But first, we have a game to go over.
FULL GAME STORY-SB Nation Pittsburgh
Good/Bad/Ugly after the jump.
- Penn State's 12-31 performance was hardly a thing of beauty percentage wise (38.7%), but the volume sure crushed the Golden Gophers, and without it, Penn State probably loses the game, something Talor Battle acknowledged after the game. The best way to beat a zone is to always shoot the other team out of it, and Battle and the Lions did just that. It was clear from the out set that the Gophers were going to own the inside, so Penn State played the matchup and got shots it could make. Excellent effort shooting in this one.
- Penn State limited itself to five turnovers, once again staying under 10. Penn State also forced 13 Minnesota turnovers, so that was pretty big, too.
- Tim Frazier's line look more Rajon Rondo-like every night. He's been distributing the ball well to his scorers and grabbing his fair share of boards, but in the last five games, he's now averaging right around eight point games. He's doing everything, and Penn State is feeding off that.
- Give credit to Cammeron Woodyard and Steve Kirkpatrick for offering solid minutes off the bench. We've given the reserves a hard time this season, and it's mostly been warranted, but this pair acquitted itself nicely on Thursday with Woodyard netting five points and grabbing a rebound and Kirkpatrick scoring once and picking up a nice assist in his limited minutes in relief of Andrew Jones in the first half.
- Penn State blew another double-digit second half lead, but this time, the Lions got the job done. Give them credit for learning their lesson against Michigan and coming up with the win this time around.
- Rebounding was a big problem in this one. The Lions were worked 22-11 in the first half and finished behind 34-22 on the glass. With a team as big as Minnesota, you expect some kind of gap, but this was bad and forced Penn State to do more than it probably should have had to do to win.
- Part of the rebounding problem had to do with Andrew Jones and Jeff Brooks sitting for a lot of minutes in the first half with foul trouble. Penn State has struggled all season with replacing starters in the lineup with injury and/or foul trouble, and Thursday night was no exception. Penn State, luckily, was able to stay in the game until halftime and reinforcements could arrive.
- I hate to keep piling on the kid, because I grow more and more convinced every game he's not in a role that suits him right now, but Billy Oliver's zero points, one rebound and two foul line in 21 minutes is really did little to help Penn State whatsoever. How unproductive does Oliver have to be for Steve Kirkpatrick to at least get a shot at a few of Oliver's minutes?
- Trevor Mbakwe had a double-double in the first half with 10 points and 10 rebounds by the break. He cooled off for six points and two rebounds in the second half, but Penn State needs to do a better job guarding him when it travels to Minneapolis on the last day of the regular season.
- Above is video from over at Victory Bell Rings of the lane violation Andrew Jones was called for late in the game that gave Minnesota a chance to tie the game with a triple in the final minute. The call was pretty clearly correct, by the letter of the law. That said, if you're referee Tim Higgins, you cannot, and I mean cannot, just casually toss the ball to Battle as soon as he turns around. You've got to give the lane a second to set, something he did not do. The call was correct, but it was poor etiquette by a ref who should know better.
- It may have appeared that the refs were being "consistent" since the tacky foul calls went both ways, but first half vs. second half, there was a pretty clear gap in the way the game was called. Andrew Jones and Jeff Brooks were forced to the bench in the first half with "fouls" that weren't called nearly as often in the second half. I'm rarely one to give the officials too much crap for screwing things up, but they did affect the outcome of the game Thursday in an inconsistent manner. Not the best day for them.
Minnesota coach Tubby Smith speaks after the game.
Talor Battle talks hitting threes and David Jackson speaks on getting a close win.
Coach Ed DeChellis recalls his team's effort against the Golden Gophers.