For the third time this season the Penn State Nittany Lions and Minnesota Golden Gophers will do battle on the hardwood. After splitting the regular season series, the two teams are set for a rubber match in the Big Ten Tournament.
Despite splitting the regular season series it was one the Nittany Lions very easily could have, and likely should have swept. Their loss at Minnesota on February 12th had plenty of questionable officiating and led to Micah Shrewsberry expressing his frustrations to the media after the game. In the rematch just two games later, the Nittany Lions dominated the Golden Gophers at the BJC.
Both teams finished toward the bottom of the Big Ten in the regular season, with the Nittany Lions finishing 7-13 in conference play and the Golden Gophers went 4-16. However, these teams should not be compared based on their records. Penn State suffered five conference losses by 5 points or less.
Even though they finished the regular season with a sub-.500 record both overall and in conference play the Nittany Lions are still a squad other teams are not going to want to run into in Indy. As one of the best defensive squads in the conference the Nittany Lions are going to make their opponent work for each victory while likely keeping the game close.
Scouting the Opposition
Sophomore forward Jamison Battle is the leading scorer for the Golden Gophers. He averaged 17.4 PPG, as well as a team leading 6.3 rebounds per game. Guard Payton Willis averages 16.1 PPG and is the team’s leading three-point shooter hitting 43.1% of his shots from behind the arc.
If the Nittany Lions can contain Battle and Willis the Golden Gophers will likely struggle to score. Minnesota averaged just 67.6 PPG which ranks 296th nationally. They also allow 70 PPG, compared to the Nittany Lions who allow just 65.3 PPG which ranked third in the Big Ten in the regular season.
What to Watch For
Motivated Nittany Lions - Watch for the Nittany Lions to be a motivated team in this game. They have played and for Coach Shrewsberry all season, rarely lacking motivation or energy. Odds are they are still upset about that loss back on February 12th.
Potential Big Night for John Harrar - Speaking of motivation, you can guarantee yourself that John Harrar is not ready for his Nittany Lion career to be over. Harrar has a nonstop motor and was one of the best rebounders in the conference this season, averaging 10.3 boards per game. With Battle as Minnesota’s leading rebounder, Harrar should be able to clean up on the boards on Wednesday night.
Penn State is the better of these two teams. Look for them to potentially have more care and motivation on Wednesday night as well. The Nittany Lions get the W and move on to the next round of the Big Ten Tournament. Penn State 68, Minnesota 61