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Road Blocked: Minnesota 81, Penn State 71

A stretch without Mike Watkins blew the game wide open for Minnesota, and Penn State could never come back.

NCAA Basketball: Penn State at Minnesota Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

Penn State came from dominating Purdue inside on Tuesday to being dominated themselves against Minnesota. The gophers had 15 blocks in this game, and nine of them came in the first half. The Nittany Lions started as well as you’d expect a poor shooting team to start, and actually kept pace with the Gophers for a good portion of the first half, but as soon as Mike Watkins went to the bench with two fouls, Minnesota took control. Reggie Lynch was a force on both ends of the floor, having six of the aforementioned nine first-half blocks. The Gophers quickly rectified the slow start from that point and opened up an 11-point lead they would take to the half.

The second half saw Penn State make a bit of a run to cut the lead to as little as seven points, but Minnesota had an answer for everything Penn State did. While they had their own foul trouble in the second half, the Gophers were able to continue to do what worked in the first half by going inside and hitting timely three-pointers when necessary. Penn State did themselves no favors by missing free throw shots the few times they did get to the line, leaving plenty of points on the board that could have made a difference down the stretch.

Four Factors Analysis

Four Factors

Team Total Possessions PPP eFG% OReb% TO% FT Rate
Team Total Possessions PPP eFG% OReb% TO% FT Rate
Penn State 71 1.07 50.0% 35.5% 19.7% 47.3%
Nebraska - 0.94 39.5% 34.0% 11.3% 13.2%

Penn State did what they needed to do defensively, but their complete lack of offense once again shot them in the foot. The Lions didn’t get to the line much, and when they did they missed some key free throws that likely would have kept the game within reach. A pristine turnover day went to waste by their inability to get anything done on the offensive end, especially when Watkins wasn’t on the floor.

Player of The Game: Shep Garner - 10 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 block, 2 steals

Garner, along with Carr, was the reason the game was as close as it was today, being able to provide offense when necessary, spreading the ball around, and being a force defensively for most of the game. As mentioned above, Tony Carr gets the honorable mention by having another exceptional game with 20 points, 4 assists, and 3 rebounds.

Random Observations

1) No, BTN announcers, being a freshman doesn't exempt you from getting fouled. - At a certain point in the game, after several calls that should have been fouls on Carr weren’t, Stephen Bardo said something to the effect of “you’re not going to get those calls as a freshman in the Big Ten.” Mr. Bardo, that’s not how refereeing should work.

2) Block City - Reggie Lynch had 11 blocks in this game, the most by a Minnesota player since 1998. Congratulations to Lynch.

3) Margin of error is gone - If Penn State wants to make the postseason, they’ll need to win their last two games of the regular season and make some noise in the Big Ten Tournament.

Looking Ahead

Penn State returns home for their last game in the confines of Bryce-Jordan center against the Ohio State Buckeyes. This is the last winnable as projected by Kenpom for the Lions. Tipoff is Tuesday, February 28th at 8:30 on BTN.