Penn State Falls To Minnesota on THON Day
It’s hard to believe it was only last week when Penn State (9-10, 1-5) dominated a solid Purdue squad, beating down the Boilermakers by 20 points. Ten days and three losses later, Penn State once again finds itself struggling to find an identity, and to keep up with the size and talent in the Big Ten.
In front of an enthusiastic student crowd that came out in droves for THON Hoops Day, and with a record 51 THON families also in attendance, Penn State looked confused and out of sync for long stretches of time in the Lions’ 80-66 loss to Minnesota (14-5, 2-4). It was an ugly game, with the two teams combining for an astounding 52 personal fouls and 72 free throw attempts.
Frankly, Penn State was lucky the score wasn’t much worse. They went in to the locker room at the half down by just two, at 33-31, but the Golden Gophers opened the second period on an 11-2 run after several careless Penn State turnovers. After questionable intentional foul calls on Matt Glover and Ross Travis resulted in 9 total points for Minnesota, the Gophers never looked back.
Very few players contributed positively for Penn State Sunday afternoon. The of-late reliable Billy Oliver finished with 1 point. Cammeron Woodyard (22), Tim Frazier (20), and Jermaine Marshall (12) were the only Penn State players to score more than 4 points, and none of the three shot close to 50% from the field. Even with their contributions, Penn State shot just 30% on the day. It’s hard to beat anyone when you shoot 30%, and a virtual impossibility when the opposing team also shoots 55%–like Minnesota did Sunday.
Ross Travis chipped in with 8 rebounds, but he would end up fouling out despite just 22 minutes of playing time. Five of the eight players who played more than 10 minutes for Penn State had more personal fouls than points. Coach Patrick Chambers has been playing Jon Graham a lot more since Big Ten play began to match up with the size in the conference, but the experiment is clearly not working. Graham shot just 1 for 3 and continued to struggle immensely in the post, especially defensively. Despite starting for the Lions, Graham played just 17 minutes Sunday.
If there’s any positive takeaway from this performance, it’s that Penn State took advantages of their free throws, shooting 82% from the line on the day Only Matt Glover struggled from the line, hitting just 2 of his 5 attempts. Penn State came in shooting 67% from the free throw line as a team this season, so there is at least a glimmer of hope for improvement in that area.
Tim Frazier said after the game, “If we play 40 minutes of Penn State basketball, I don’t think anybody can beat us.” Yes, the attitude and hustle is essential, but it only goes so far. At some point, the shots will have to fall if the Lions are going to want to make waves in the Big Ten.
Penn State returns to the Jordan Center on Thursday when they take on Illinois (15-3, 4-1) at 9 p.m. The game will also air on ESPN2 and will feature $1 hot dogs for fans in attendance.
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