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Penn State Picks Up Second Big Ten Win With 63-58 Victory Over Minnesota

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It wasn't pretty, but the Nittany Lions moved to 2-6 in the conference and 14-7 overall with tonight's victory over the Gophers.

Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

From the moment today's game against Minnesota started, the Golden Gophers made their gameplan obvious. Richard Pitino's squad knew that D.J. Newbill is one of the best basketball players in America. They knew that they couldn't let Penn State's best player go off if they wanted to win the game.

So the Golden Gophers did everything they could to force a team that was already without its second-best scorer in Brandon Taylor make someone not named "D.J. Newbill" beat them. It's a pretty smart strategy: the Nittany Lions are without their No. 2 scorer, why not make sure their No. 1 scorer can't do anything either?

Minnesota was helped out by Newbill's struggles from the field. Minnesota was not helped out by the fact that the other eight Nittany Lions players stepped up and played amazing team basketball. Also: D.J. Newbill managed to score 12 points despite being harassed by one of the peskiest teams in the country, because he is awesome.

PSU punched Minnesota in the mouth right from the start, and behind 9 points from Payton Banks and 8 from Geno Thorpe -- no, seriously -- the squad took a 33-23 lead into the half. Of course, because Penn State basketball, the second half wasn't that easy. Instead of building on the lead, turnovers by the Nittany Lions and some really good play by the Gophers led to Minnesota actually taking the lead in the second half.

And yeah, PSU limped to the finish line. Newbill turned to shambles down the stretch. Penn State struggled to make two free throws during its various trips to the line to put the game away. But in the end, the squad got its second Big Ten win of the year. The #BUS rides again, friends.

Four Factors Analysis

Team Possessions PPP eFG% OReb% TO% FT Rate
Penn State 67 0.94 47.0% 36.7% 23.9% 42.0%
Purdue - 0.87 44.1% 26.5% 22.4% 13.6%

Penn State won this game at the free throw line. The Nittany Lions got there 21 times and made 16 shots from the charity stripe. Meanwhile, Minnesota only went 6-for-8 from the line. The Nittany Lions were generally more aggressive on offense today -- the Gophers hoisted up 22 shots from three, compared to PSU's 14 -- and it showed, as they got to the line more and converted at a 76.2 percent clip.

Also, credit to everyone on PSU for chipping in on the offensive glass. Of the nine Nittany Lions who played, seven of them grabbed an offensive rebound. This, in turn, led to Penn State having eight fewer offensive rebounds (11) than Minnesota had defensive rebounds (19). One of the ways to give yourself a better chance to win is to extend possessions with offensive rebounds, and Penn State did just that.

Player of the Game - Geno Thorpe

Sure, Geno Thorpe kind of tapered off during the second half, as he had 8 of his 9 points during the game's first 20 minutes. However, his tough defense, general peskiness and #HUSTLE/#ATTITUDE did not relent when his offensive game went away during the second half. Besides, if Thorpe doesn't go off in the first half, Penn State isn't in this game at the very end, and odds are the Nittany Lions don't win. Once he develops a consistent game on the offensive end, look out.

Oh, also:

Geno Thorpe is so great, you guys.

Random Observations

  • PAYTON BANKS THA GAWD -- So as you know if you listen to the podcast, I love Payton Banks. He made me look really, really smart during the first half today. Banks drilled three 3's, scored all 9 of his points during the first half and looked like the sniper that Pat Chambers has hyped him to be. He had to step up in Taylor's absence, and he absolutely did. Banks is also shooting 42.9 percent from three over his last five games. Not bad at all.
  • Devin BOSSter -- How about a horrible pun for Penn State's point guard, who continued his fantastic form today? Devin Foster had 8 points, almost all of them on absolutely insane layups, which are suddenly his thing. He also showed the general composure and savvy that we've seen over the last three games. I jokingly said that we should nickname him Point God during PSU's game against Sparty. It's not a joke now. Kind of.
  • A Few More Words About D.J. Newbill -- So by his lofty standards, D.J. sucked today. At this point, Newbill is supposed to drop 20+ a game and carry Penn State to a win. That didn't happen. He had 12 points on 4-for-15 shooting. By most standards, that is bad. However, great basketball players know that they can't mail it in when their shot is not falling. They know that they need to find other ways to take over the game. Because Newbill is a great basketball player, he did that by having more rebounds (11), assists (5) and steals (3) than anyone else on the floor. It's just unfortunate that an absolutely pathetic 6,100 people were in attendance to watch him tonight, but we're used to that by now.

Looking Ahead

Penn State travels to Illinois on Saturday to take on the Fighting Illini. Now, John Groce's team is tough to get an accurate read on, since it is pretty inconsistent. For example: it beat Maryland by seven, then four days later, it lost to Nebraska by 10. It is also playing without star Rayvonte Rice, who is still out with a broken left hand. Getting three wins in a row is nice, and while winning in Champaign is always really, really tough, Penn State can do it if it locks down on defense and doesn't do anything too dumb on offense. It should be an excellent game, and it tips off on Saturday at 1 P.M. on BTN.