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Penn State Hoops Drops Third Consecutive Game In 76-70 Loss To Minnesota

Penn State men’s basketball (9-12, 4-9 Big Ten) struggled down the stretch in a 76-70 loss to Minnesota (12-10, 3-10 Big Ten) Saturday night in Minneapolis.

Backed by a strong offensive performance from Eric Curry, the Golden Gophers ended their five-game losing streak with the win over the Nittany Lions.

How It Happened

Head coach Micah Shrewsberry elected to roll with the same starting five in consecutive games. The Nittany Lions entered Saturday’s game attempting to get back on track in Minneapolis against the Golden Gophers after dropping five of their last six games.

It didn’t take long for the Nittany Lions to jump out to an early lead. Senior big man John Harrar scored two early baskets to put Penn State up early in the opening half.

Minnesota responded quickly on its end of the floor, going on a mini 11-4 run led by senior guard Eylijah Stephens to give the Golden Gophers a brief 11-10 lead.

Myles Dread answered with a three followed by a quick Minnesota timeout, bringing the game to its first TV timeout with the Nittany Lions up 15-11. Right out of the timeout, Dread continued his hot start with another three-pointer.

Once again, Sam Sessoms was the first man off the bench for the Nittany Lions and his offensive presence was felt right away. The senior guard did it all for Penn State in the first ten minutes, scoring ten points including a beautiful pass inside to Jevonnie Scott for a dunk.

Unlike last Saturday’s “Big Ten basketball” defensive slugfest, both teams came out of the gates on fire and didn’t let up. The game was tied at 36 entering the half. The Nittany Lions shot 60% from the field in the first half. Golden Gophers senior forward Eric Curry led all scorers with 12 while Sam Sessoms led the Nittany Lions in scoring with 10 points.

Just as they did in the first half, the Nittany Lions opened the scoring in the second half thanks to a corner jumper from Jalen Pickett. Minnesota’s first two field goals in the second half were both three-pointers from Eylijah Stephens and Payton Willis respectively.

Turnover problems from the first half carried into the second half for the Nittany Lions. A tipped pass by Sessoms led to another three by Eric Curry for Minnesota on the other end, prompting head coach Micah Shrewsberry to call his first timeout of the second half. Minnesota led 48-42 with 15 minutes remaining.

Out of the timeout, Seth Lundy hit his third three of the game to make it a one-possession contest. Following a brief 6-0 Minnesota run, Lundy hit another three to keep the Nittany Lions defect at single digits.

With just over 10 minutes remaining in the second half, sophomore guard Dallion Johnson hit his first shot of the game in four attempts, cutting Minnesota’s lead to five.

No matter how big of a lead Minnesota got in the second half, Penn State always seemed to respond with a big shot. Myles Dread connected on his third three of the night on as many attempts, prompting a Minnesota timeout.

With John Harrar in foul trouble, Micah Shrewsberry elected to run with a smaller lineup than usual. This led to increased inside looks for Jalen Pickett. The senior wing took advantage of the opportunity and hit a big shot, plus a foul to put the Nittany Lions within one with a chance to take their first lead in the second half.

The final five minutes turned into a slugfest between Sessoms and Minnesota guard Luke Loewe. The two went back and forth with big buckets to keep the other team from pulling away. The game was all tied up at 67 with 3:20 left in regulation.

A big turnover by Seth Lundy put the ball back in the hands of the Golden Gophers, up one with just over a minute remaining. On the ensuing possession, Payton Willis laid home his sixth bucket of the night to put Minnesota up three.

Following a Micah Shrewsberry timeout, John Harrar was called for a costly traveling violation after shuffling his feet under the basket. Nothing came about for the Golden Gophers on their end, giving the ball back to Penn State still up three.

Jalen Pickett was sent to the line with a big opportunity to bring the Nittany Lions within one. A miss and a make in two attempts cut Minnesota’s lead to two.

Having to play the foul game, Penn State sent Minnesota to the line with a chance to make it a two-possession game in the final 20 seconds. Stephens knocked down both.

For the second time in the final minute, Penn State was called for traveling, icing the game and adding to its losing streak.

Minnesota won 76-70, ending its five-game losing streak. The Golden Gophers were led by 22 points from Eric Curry while the Nittany Lions were led by 18 points from Sam Sessoms.

Takeaways

  • Eric Curry was phenomenal on Saturday night for the Golden Gophers. The senior forward entered the game averaging just eight points a game with a career-high of just 19. Curry shattered that with ease as he finished with a game high of 22 points on 10-for-19 shooting.
  • Turnovers continued to plague the Nittany Lions in Minneapolis on Saturday night. Every player that appeared in the game committed at least one turnover with the exception of Jevonnie Scott. In total, Penn State turned the ball over 13 times in the loss.
  • Late-game execution was a problem for the Nittany Lions tonight. Multiple times down the stretch in the second half Penn State failed to get a shot up to give itself a chance to win. Traveling problems and bad passes sunk the Nittany Lions in their third straight loss.

What’s Next?

The Nittany Lions will return home to the Bryce Jordan Center on Tuesday, February 15 to host No. 17 Michigan State. The game will begin at 6:30 p.m. on the Big Ten Network.

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About the Author

Devon Craley

Devon is a junior studying sports journalism. He has the genuine misfortune of being a Philadelphia sports fan...IYKYK. Send your hot takes and preferably your freezing cold takes on Twitter to @devon3134. Devon is also your friendly, neighborhood State College movie nerd.

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