Unfortunately for the Penn State men’s basketball team, games last forty minutes, not thirty-two with the first eight being an exhibition.
Had it been the latter, the Lions would have won, 60-58. But a quick 23-3 start by the Gophers ultimately doomed the Nittany Lions (15-16, 6-12), which fell 81-63 to Minnesota (19-12, 8-10) for the second time this season on senior day in Minneapolis.
The Gophers hit 4 of its first 7 field goals while the Lions committed 4 turnovers before its first shot fell: a Donovon Jack tip in with 15:37 left in the half.
Minnesota, which sits squarely on the NCAA tournament bubble, played with a sense of urgency that Penn State appeared to lack. By the time the overmatched Lions took a timeout with 11:52 to go in the half, the Gophers led 23-3.
Penn State outscored Minnesota 21-15 in the remainder of the period, but still took a 38-24 deficit into the half. The Lions had 9 turnovers in the half, and only 8 field goals. Even Newbill, who’s usually steady with the ball in his hands, turned it over twice in the first twenty minutes.
Just as the Gophers began the first half on a 23-3 run, they began the second twenty minutes with a similarly stifling 16-5 advantage. And while Minnesota outscored the Lions by 31 points (39-8) in the first eight minutes of each half, Penn State in fact outscored Minnesota by 13 (55-42) in the remaining 12 minutes of each period.
A basket and the foul by freshman Geno Thorpe, two Newbill jumpers, and a pair of Brandon Taylor foul shots brought Penn State within 9, with just under nine minutes to play, part of a 17-1 run.
But, as was the theme throughout the game, turnovers ultimately plagued the comeback. Thorpe’s third turnover of the game came right after the Lions cut the lead to 9. They wouldn’t get within single digits again. Penn State finished with 15 giveaways.
An abundance of whistles by particularly persnickety judges dragged the final six minutes into a never-ending foul shooting contest. Tim Frazier, playing in his final regular season game, drew multiple calls, and finished with 14 points behind 10-12 foul shooting.
Newbill led all scorers with 24 points, on 9-20 shooting. Maurice Walker and Deandre Mathieu paced the Gophers with 16 points a piece.
With the loss, the Nittany Lions will get one last shot at Minnesota this Thursday in the first round of the Big Ten tournament in Indianapolis.