Hoops Preview: Penn State Looks To Finish Season On A High Note At Minnesota
One more game remains in a regular season that began with so much promise for a team that many thought had finally turned the corner. But that’s all these hopes and aspirations were; just desperate fans hoping that their team could finally become a player in the Big Ten.
The regular season finally comes to an end Sunday afternoon, as the Nittany Lions travel to Minneapolis to take on the Minnesota Golden Gophers at 1 p.m. in what all of Nittany Nation hopes can end in favor of Penn State. It’s been a roller coaster year, and hopefully coach Chambers and the team can leave with a sweet taste in their mouths.
The Enemy (Is Everywhere)
Minnesota, who sits at 17-13 and 6-11 in the Big Ten, has gone 1-2 in the last three games. The Golden Gophers hung with Wisconsin, but would end up falling to the Badgers 63-53. The team responded with an upset victory in East Lansing, taking down Michigan State in overtime, only to fall to Wisconsin for a second time in the following game.
The Golden Gophers sit far outside the NCAA Tournament bubble, meaning they’ll miss out on the Big Dance this year. The team is headlined by star point guard Andre Hollins–an NBA Draft hopeful–who leads the team with 14.3 points per game. The Golden Gophers know how to share the rock, ranking No. 16 in the country in assists per game, averaging 15.8 helpers per contest.
Keep an eye out for big man Maurice Walker, who averages 11.5 points and 6.5 boards per game. At 6-foot-10, 250 pounds, Walker has some serious size, and uses it to his advantage in the paint as he boxes out opposing defenders with ease.
How To Make Them Disappear Completely
The real key to this one will be containing Andre Hollins, who can catch fire if allowed the chance, and keeping mistakes to a minimum. Penn State has made it a trend to turn the ball over in late-game situations, so ball security will be a must. Offensive rebounding will be important, especially given that Minnesota has struggled all year on the glass.
D.J. Newbill is this team’s heart and soul, and will be the offensive focal point–as usual. He’ll be counted on throughout the game, but will need help from his supporting cast, especially from beyond the arc where the team struggled mightily last game against Ohio State–hitting just 3-of-17 shots from downtown.
KenPom Game Prep
It’s been a rocky season for the Nittany Lions, but don’t count them out of the regular season finale. This team has fought game in and game out, so expect them to come out swinging–figuratively not literally–right down to the final whistle.
If the Nittany Lions can maintain a presence on the glass and capitalize on mid-range shots, they should be able to keep Minnesota in check. D.J. Newbill has been due for a monster game, so expect him to put up some gaudy numbers in his regular season swan song. The same notion applies to Ross Travis, who broke out against the Buckeyes with 14 points and eight boards, along with some highlight reel dunks. Expect him to play physical down low and win the battle in the paint, posting another solid outing in what should be a well-deserved win for the Nittany Lions.
It may sound a bit too optimistic, but seeing how this team finds a way to hang around just about every single game, Penn State should be able to find a way to outlast the Golden Gophers on their home turf. Penn State wins a nail-biter, 65-63.