While some of you were partaking in State Patty’s festivities on this rainy Saturday afternoon, the men’s basketball team traveled to Minnesota hoping for a season sweep over the Golden Gophers (22-7, 10-6 Big Ten).
Penn State (14-15, 6-10 Big Ten) couldn’t solve Minnesota’s defense around the rim in this one, eventually losing its third straight game, 81-71.
How It Happened
Minnesota controlled the opening tip and immediately knocked down a three to get things going in Minneapolis. Then Tony Carr picked up right where he left off after his performance against Purdue, drilling two jumpers to give Penn State its first five points of the ballgame.
The Golden Gophers and the Nittany Lions traded 8-0 runs over the course of the next nine minutes. So in other words, there wasn’t much scoring early. Shep Garner sunk a pair of triples during the Nittany Lions’ run. During the first ten minutes of the game, both teams combined for 8-of-33 shooting. Offense was tough to come by at the beginning of this one as it seemed like we were on our way to another game where the winning team scored in the low-50’s like the first matchup between these two teams.
Penn State’s defense was once again solid in the first half. It did a great job of limiting open looks for the Golden Gophers, but the Nittany Lions just couldn’t get much going on the offensive side. Big Ten blocks leader Reggie Lynch was a monster inside for Minnesota — altering nearly every shot at the rim for Penn State when he was in the game.
It took until the 1:34 mark of the first half for Penn State to finally get to the foul line where Lamar Stevens split a pair. The Nittany Lions weren’t attacking the rim as much due to the intimidation by Lynch inside the paint — only scoring six points inside in the first half. He finished with a game-high 11 blocks on his way to setting the program’s single-season record.
Minnesota went into the locker room with a 39-28 lead after it caught fire a little bit to end the half. Mike Watkins was forced to only play six minutes before the break due to foul trouble, giving Julian Moore the majority of minutes at the center position.
Carr started the second half much like he did the first — with a mid-range jumper. Penn State came out with a lot of energy, going on a 7-0 run early in the frame to cut the Gopher lead down to six before Minnesota responded with a couple of buckets.
Penn State didn’t do itself any favors at the foul line Saturday. It didn’t get to the charity stripe often, and when it did, conversions were hard to come by. The Nittany Lions were just 2 of 6 from the foul line by the 10-minute mark of the half.
The blue and white needed a strong push late to make this a game again. Payton Banks did his best, knocking down a couple of threes to keep Penn State within striking distance. Carr nailed a pair at the line to cut the deficit to single digits, but Minnesota responded with a 7-0 run to seal the deal. Pat Chambers’ squad didn’t quit, but Penn State just couldn’t get shots to fall when it needed them.
Tony Carr once again was the leader of this young Nittany Lion team, scoring 20 points and tallying three rebounds and seven assists — giving him the Penn State freshman record for assists in a season. Mike Watkins had a plus-minus rating of 15, with all of the other regular rotation players being in the minus category today. Unfortunately, due to foul trouble, Watkins was only able to play 16 minutes, which didn’t help Penn State’s chances.
Player Of The Game
Reggie Lynch | Junior | Center
Lynch was a defensive wall today for the Golden Gophers. He finished with nine points and an absurd 11 blocks in this matchup. During this game, Lynch set the Minnesota record for blocks in a single season in addition to padding his lead in the Big Ten for blocks this year. Turning away a potential 22 Penn State points with his 11 blocks was the biggest difference maker in today’s game.
The Nittany Lions return home for their next game when they take on the Ohio State Buckeyes next Tuesday night. This will be Penn State’s last home game at the Bryce Jordan Center for the 2016-17 regular season. Tip off is scheduled for 8:30 p.m.