Coming off an embarrassing beat down at home last Friday night at the hands at Purdue, it remained to be seen whether that game was a blip for a team that had been competitive in virtually every other game this season, or a sign of a team that was finally mailing it in.
Perhaps a floundering Minnesota team with a coach on the hot seat was just what the doctor ordered. On an emotional Senior Night that saw John Harrar, Jamari Wheeler, Kyle McCloskey, Trent Buttrick, and Taylor Nussbaum honored (the latter three getting their first career starts), the Lions put together an inspiring performance. Utilizing a blistering rebounding advantage led by John Harrar and Trent Buttrick crashing the boards (at one point, PSU had twice as many boards as the Gophers), the Lions got themselves plenty of second-chance opportunities which they converted into buckets.
Minnesota hung tough however, until about the final three minutes of the half, when PSU ripped off a 12-2 run to close out the half, aided by some hot three-point shooting from Myreon Jones and Myles Dread. With just a few seconds remaining in the half, Dread stole the ball in Minnesota’s end of the court and swished a buzzer-beating trey, putting the Lions up 42-28.
Dread’s shot turned out to be a harbinger of things to come in the second half, as Jones opened with a trey that continued the rout which saw PSU’s lead balloon to as high as 24 points and seemingly everyone getting in on the scoring party. At one point early in the second half, PSU had knocked down an astonishing 11 straight field goals. Buttrick even reached double digits scoring in what was a fitting way for the young man to end his playing career in the BJC.
Minnesota would make things semi-interesting as they whittled the PSU lead to as low as 11 points late. However, the Lions got some big buckets from Harrar and Jones down the stretch to keep the improbable Gopher rally at bay and preserve a satisfying win in their home season finale.
The Lions’ 50-33 rebounding advantage (including a 16-7 offensive rebounding advantage) looms large in this one. Despite having such a quality points per possession and efficient field goal percentage, PSU only shot 45.7 percent from the floor. They did however, nail ten of their 25 three-point attempts, far superior to Minnesota’s 5-for-18 from behind the arc.
Player(s) of the Game
Myreon Jones was en fuego, leading PSU with 17 points, including 4-for-7 from downtown. With Minnesota threatening late, he nailed a trey that served as the dagger in the heart of the Gophers’ comeback hopes. John Harrar finished with a double-double (12 points, 11 rebounds) and Trent Buttrick (a career-high 13 points and seven rebounds) damn near did the same. All three are getting POTG honors tonight, as a result.
- Thank You, Seniors - It was a great gesture to start all five seniors on Senior Night after the tumultuous season they had all been through. Even better was when Jim Ferry put all five seniors back on the floor in the final 90 seconds with the game already sealed.
- “Not Done Yet” - Throughout the BTN broadcast, the announcers kept mentioning how Jim Ferry told them pre-game that he felt the team still had a run in them and that they were “not done yet.” A win like tonight’s sure provides some positive momentum going into next week’s Big Ten Tournament. We’re not about to predict a deep run for PSU, but this is a team that is playing with house money and has precisely zero f**ks to give, which makes them dangerous in a conference tournament format.
- Bye, Richard? - Minnesota head coach Richard Pitino came into this game squarely on the hot seat. One has to imagine with his team now having suffered their sixth straight loss and being completely out of the at-large picture for the NCAA Tournament, the eighth-year head coach’s days seem numbered in Minneapolis.
Penn State (9-13, 6-12) heads to College Park this Sunday, Sunday, Sunday (March 7th) for a rematch with Maryland in the regular season finale. Tipoff will be at 7:00 PM ET on BTN.