The 10th-seed favorites looked to be the better team for much of the night. They built an eight-point lead three times and looked poised to break the game open, and then Minnesota would swiftly responded with a run of their own. In the first half, Penn State’s combo of John Harrar and Mike Watkins battled Jordan Murphy and Daniel Oturu in the paint, and did a great job aside from being limited with foul trouble.
At the half, Penn State had a four-point lead that felt good considering they were able to weather several minutes with Watkins, Harrar, and Dread on the bench with two fouls. Jordan Murphy was dominant, with 10 points and 9 rebounds; but Josh Reaves was able to keep Amir Coffey under wraps.
The Nittany Lions were able to extend their lead, albeit only by 2, during the first 9+ minutes of play to start the second half. Harrar and Watkins picked up where they left off before foul trouble hit them in the first, and Jamari Wheeler continued to make an impact on the offensive glass.
After the Gophers pulled back within two for the third time with 2:50 remaining, Penn State had a minute-long possession that ended in an overturned out-of-bounds call giving Minnesota a chance to tie or take a lead. Murphy muscled through Watkins’ defense and the game was even for the first time in the second-half.
In the final minute the team went back-and-forth with the Gophers drawing even multiple times but never taking the lead. Amir Coffey had a look from deep 3-pt range at the buzzer, but bounced it off the rim to take us to overtime.
Minnesota took the lead to start making it a 12-2 run since the final minutes of regulation. As you might expect, they looked rejuvenated and Lamar Stevens’ legs had barely anything left. Reaves stepped up with 5-points, but the rest of the team was dry. A scuffle with 33.3 seconds remaining that saw Watkins ejected for stepping on the court as Coffey went to the FT line to extend the Gophers lead to five. Penn State tried to extend the game and managed to keep it interesting, but solid shooting at the line by Coffey iced it to send Nittany Lions back to State College.
FT Rate: 11.3%
FT Rate: 54.4%
The FT rate tells the story of the game, skewed slightly by overtime but still strongly in Minnesota’s favor. Penn State did a great job rebounding, but weren’t able to win the turnover battle and that cost them the transition points that they desperately need on offense.
Player of The Game
It’s always an easy choice to go with Lamar Stevens. His 24 points on 9-24 shooting won’t go down as his best performance, but he really was outstanding until fatigue hit him in the final minutes. I’m amazed he was able to keep his cool late in the game as Minnesota had players hanging from his biceps in paint. Jamari Wheeler and Mike Watkins are honorable mentions, with 13 and 14 points respectively and 7 rebounds each.
- They are who we thought they were - Coming into the season after losing Garner, Carr, and Moore we knew that this roster would feature three upperclassman capable of carrying the team, and three freshmen whose consistency or lackthereof would determine how far the upperclassmen could carry them. Tonight, all three upperclassmen (and Jamari Wheeler) stepped up, but a combined 1-4 shooting performance by Dread, Bolton and Jones was not enough. Tonight we saw a bit of everything we’ve come to love, and hate about this team.
We won’t know for certain until Sunday, but I think it’s unlikely that Penn State gets into the NIT with the loss tonight. Stay tuned.