After a solid shooting and rebounding effort was ruined by a plethora of turnovers and poor defensive performance five days ago in Minneapolis, Micah Shrewsberry clearly must have instilled it in his players’ heads that the defensive effort and ball handling needed to be much better if they were going to exact revenge against Minnesota.
That’s because today’s performance felt like the polar opposite of the painful 76-70 loss last Saturday, with the defensive tenacity representing perhaps the best effort we’ve seen all year from this squad. The Gophers were held to a cold 33 percent shooting from the floor as Jamison Battle was the only Minnesota player to reach double figures with 16 points, while Eric Curry, who lit up this PSU team for 22 points in the previous meeting, was held to just a single point.
Penn State meanwhile, shot above 50 percent once again and held a plus-ten rebounding advantage, while having only a minus-two turnover disadvantage (as opposed to the ridiculous minus-ten disadvantage in the first meeting at Minnesota). The Lions realized off the bat that Minnesota had no shot-blocking threats inside and took full advantage by continually taking the ball to the hoop for the layup, like it was a pickup game at the IM Building. It was enough to help them build a double-digit lead early on and go to the locker room up by eight.
The second half saw PSU pick up where they left off and just step on the Gophers’ collective throats, leading by as many as 26 late in the game, which was enough to bring in the run-ons off the bench for some game action. Overall, it was a nice, comfortable, afternoon for PSU hoops fans, as the team now sports a two-game win streak heading into a more manageable portion of the schedule next week.
Players of the Game
Jalen Pickett’s 9-of-14 shooting for a total of 20 points (including a pair of three-pointers) led the way for the Nittany Lions, as he continually drove into the paint on the Gophers for layups and short-range jumpers. He looked very much like the Pickett we’ve come to know and love. Same story with John Harrar, as he once again tore it up inside with his double-double of ten points and ten rebounds. Myles Dread also stepped up with 12 points and six boards of his own, nailing a pair of treys. Even with Seth Lundy having a very quiet afternoon (3 points), it was good to see PSU able to score enough to blow out an opponent.
- Better Than Expected - Kudos to the fans who turned out for this one, and kudos to the BJC for allowing students to attend the game for free. While it maybe wasn’t the presence you would normally get for a home game like this, it was still a quality atmosphere given the circumstances.
- Like Bats out of Hell - From the opening tip, PSU came flying out of the gate with the defensive effort and aggressiveness on the offensive side of the ball. Setting the tone early by getting up double digits seemed to have an effect on the Gophers, who to their credit, did not mail it in, but you could tell they were playing on very tired legs after suffering a 25-point defeat at Ohio State less than 48 hours ago and had just arrived in Happy Valley an hour before the game (according to the BTN announcers)
- Chance For Some Real Momentum - The Lions have a very winnable slate of games coming up next week, as they travel to a struggling Maryland team on Monday night, followed by a pair of weekend home games against Northwestern (Friday, Feb. 25th) and Nebraska (Sunday, Feb. 27th). Ideally, you’d like to see PSU win at least two of those three, something that will be even more doable once Greg Lee is available again. More importantly, it sets up a possibility that this team could have some real momentum going into March and the Big Ten Tournament. Regardless how far they get in the tournament, this will not be a PSU team that opponents will prefer to draw in Indianapolis next month.
Penn State (11-12, 6-9) heads to College Park, MD on Monday, February 21st to take on the Maryland Terrapins (11-14, 3-11). Tipoff will be at 7:00 PM ET on ESPN2.