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Minnesota 75, Penn State 69

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It was a hard fought battle that came down to the final minutes.

NCAA Basketball: Penn State at Minnesota Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports

Penn State played well against a team that is projected to make the NCAA Tournament but fell short in the end. It’s hard to win on the road in the Big Ten and the Lions tried their best to get back to Happy Valley with an even conference record. Instead, at 2-4, the tensions will be a little bit higher with the Buckeyes coming to town. We’ll see how fans react, whether they support the team in this challenging time or pile on with negativity.

Seth Lundy got the first start of his career in place of Myles Dread and John Harrar got the start for Pat Chambers instead of Mike Watkins. It was a move that many people thought could be made to try to get the Lions back on track. Watkins has played well off the bench in the past, and Dread had been struggling to score lately.

Lundy hit a 3-pointer on his first shot attempt and tipped an offensive rebound to Harrar for a dunk, who added 4 points in the opening minutes. It was 12-7 at the first break.

Minnesota went on a 12-2 run that forced Pat Chambers to call a timeout. Seth Lundy hit his second 3-pointer to tie the game at 19, ending the run. Myreon Jones carried the offense for the next few minutes and he had 7 points at the under-8 timeout, the teams were tied at 29.

With 7:14 to go before halftime, Lamar Stevens got his second foul on a play that sure seemed to be contact initiated by Daniel Oturu. Watch Oturu smash Stevens away from him before getting a very soft foul call, sending the Lions’ star player to the bench. Pat Chambers had to be restrained in order to avoid a technical foul call.

Seth Lundy hit his third deep ball, then Curtis Jones hit a deep one from just inside half court on the next trip to give Penn State a 37-31 lead with just under six minutes to go. It was an 10-0 run with Stevens on the bench and coach Chambers having been able to keep his cool.

Mike Watkins was sent to the floor with an inadvertent elbow by Marcus Carr. There was no foul called on the play and Watkins had to go to the locker room, returning to the bench shortly after. Lundy hit a pair of free throws to give his team a 41-35 lead with three minutes to play.

Watkins scored a tough basket when he returned to the court just before halftime then Myreon Jones hit a deep three to give the Lions a 46-44 lead at the break.

Daniel Oturu and Lamar Stevens exchanged words after a whistle early in the second half and had to be separated by the officials. On the next possession, Stevens hit a jumper and Seth Lundy followed with a layup for an 8-0 Penn State run and a 54-48 lead.

Jamari Wheeler was called for a foul while trying to tie up Daniel Oturu. Oturu got in Wheeler’s face afterwards and while Lamar Stevens pointed it out, Mike Watkins finally stepped in to end it. Watkins and Oturu were given technical fouls.

After the dust settled it was Penn State 58-56 with 11:10 to play. Minnesota took a 61-59 lead, its first lead since early in the first half after trailing by as much as 8. Pat Chambers called timeout to slow the run.

The Lions missed 11 straight shots from the floor as Minnesota took a 5 point lead with just under six minutes to play. Myreon Jones hit a runner to end the streak. Oturu hit a 3-point shot to give the Gophers its largest lead 69-61 with 3:27 to play.

Mike Watkins hit a free throw and then Lamar Stevens had a dunk to cut the lead to 5 with 2 minutes to play. It was as close as the Lions got, as Minnesota kept hitting free throws.

The tensions continued past the final whistle, as Oturu and Stevens shared words in the hand-shake line. Again, it seemed like Oturu was the one who had the most to say. The Gophers will come to Happy Valley on February 8, and the game should be very contentious.

Random Thoughts

  • There were times that the Lions were playing without Mike Watkins and Lamar Stevens, and it was easy to forget that the two stars were on the bench. When Penn State’s supporting players play well, the team can overcome not having them on the court.
  • Seth Lundy responded with 13 points in the first half after getting the first start of his career. The points came in timely situations when the team needed them and he made several plays that will not show up in the box score.
  • Penn State had zero turnovers in the first half, an amazing feat in a hostile road environment.

Up Next

Penn State will return home for a game on Saturday against Ohio State. It will be the first time the Lions will play in front of the students in over a month, so hopefully the atmosphere can be turned into an advantage for Pat Chambers’ team. The game will be televised on ESPNU at noon.

Box Score