When you spot a team a 20-point lead, usually you lose. That was the case this evening in Minneapolis as the Lions quickly found themselves down 23-3 after just seven minutes of play. It was eerily similar to last year's embarrassment at the Barn when Penn State went nearly 12 minutes before scoring their first points in a 73-44 loss.
The Nittany Lions had a few spurts throughout the course of the game, once cutting the lead to 9 with seven minutes to play after a 17-1 run, but they couldn't match the Gophers' intensity for much of the contest in the 81-63 loss. Minnesota simply outworked Penn State from start-to-finish going wire-to-wire in the win. They were especially tough on defense with suffocating ball pressure that forced numerous Penn State turnovers. The driving lanes were non-existent for the Lions' penetrating guards all game long.
It also didn't help matters that the Gophers had one of their best shooting performances of the season. They torched Penn State's interior defense, converting 18 of their 25 shots inside the arc (72%). No one in a blue and white uniform could match up with Minnesota's Mo Walker, who scored 16 points on just 5 shots. The Gophers had five players in double-figures.
Four Factors Analysis
It might surprise you but Penn State's interior defense had been holding conference opponents to just 43.9% of their 2-point attempts, the best figure in Big Ten play. But the Gophers had their way on offense tonight, exploiting Penn State's foul tendencies and earning 29 attempts at the charity stripe. They also benefited from PSU's early turnovers that helped lead to transition buckets.
Player of the Game
After going scoreless in the year's first matchup, DJ Newbill went off against the Gophers for 24 points. It was far from his best game, but the junior gave himself a shot at the B1G's scoring title, depending on how Terran Petteway fares tonight against Wisconsin. It should give him some confidence heading into the rematch next week.
- Dickerson - I'm starting to become a believer in the 7-footer's potential. He's got a long way to go, but he had another beautiful catch and finish off the pick-and-roll with Frazier. There's something to work with in his long frame.
- geNO! - Thorpe made some nice plays in transition, but he lost his dribble at least three times during the game. An offseason of ball-handling drills will do him some good.
- Not So Fond Homecoming - I feel like we keep waiting for Ross Travis to have himself a game against his hometown school, but once again, the junior was a non-factor on offense in Williams Arena, even after an 18-point, 13-rebound performance in SC against the Gophers. Graham Woodward wasn't able to get into the flow of the game either, going scoreless in his few minutes
- Pitiful Zebras - It didn't have any effect on the outcome of the game, but that was another woefully officiated basketball game. Just some mind-numbing calls that goes against the rules of basketball. Hopefully it doesn't ruin March like it has for much of this season.
With the loss, the Lions are set to take on the Gophers in four days in the first round of the Big Ten tournament. Hard to get a read on what to expect in that game, since the sour taste from this humiliating loss could either ignite or defuse the Lions' run at the Big Ten tournament. Regardless, whatever consolation postseason hopes this team had, they're all-but-gone as the Lions finish the regular season 15-16, 6-12 in conference play.