Strong Shooting For Penn State Hoops Helps Dominate Minnesota 67-46
Penn State men’s basketball (10-12, 5-9 Big Ten) defeated the Minnesota Gophers (12-11, 3-11 Big Ten) 67-46 at the Bryce Jordan Center Thursday afternoon.
Jalen Pickett led the Nittany Lions with impressive play on offense and defense. Pickett scored 20 points, while also picking up a pair of blocks and steals. Elsewhere, John Harrar and Myles Dread entered productive showings, combining for 16 rebounds and scoring 10 and 12, respectively.
How It Happened
John Harrar won the tip for the Nittany Lions, but a travel called on Harrar gave the first full possession to the Gophers. Sloppy play continued through the first minute with Jalen Pickett being stripped on a layup attempt and Minnesota’s EJ Stephens passing a ball out of bounds.
Pickett picked up the Nittany Lions first bucket and subsequently helped convert a two-for-one opportunity with an assist to Harrar. The measly 4-0 lead was finally cut into by a Minnesota jumper from Payton Willis, with roughly 16 and a half minutes to play in the first. Despite yet another turnover, Penn State maintained a 6-5 lead heading into the first media timeout.
In the first possession after the timeout, Penn State forced a 24-second shot clock violation, spearheaded by strong defense from Pickett. With 14 minutes remaining, Harrar forced Minnesota’s first foul from Charlie Daniels. Sam Sessoms took advantage of the extra possession with a driving second-chance layup to increase the lead to 8-5.
The conference rivals traded missed shots until the Nittany Lions finally broke the game’s dry spell with a fast break three pointer from Caleb Dorsey. Another Sessoms layup and a Pickett three prompted Minnesota’s first timeout. Penn State’s clicking offense headed into the break leading 16-5, with a little under 11 minutes to play in the half.
Jevonnie Scott scored the first basket from the break on a strong dunk. The Gophers responded with six unanswered points, making three consecutive shots after missing seven straight. Penn State’s lead shrunk to seven points, at 18-11 with eight first-half minutes remaining.
Immediately out of the gate, Minnesota’s Jamison Battle scored for the Gophers. Lundy fired back with a three pointer to break the opposing 8-0 run. Nearly a minute went by without scoring until Myles Dread broke open the Gophers’ defense for an open layup, extending the Nittany Lions’ 23-16 advantage.
Harrar continued to make his presence known on both ends of the court, converting his third basket of the game before offering help defense in the paint, leading to a Pickett steal. Penn State stayed in control of the 25-16 contest. Minnesota’s third foul sent Dallion Johnson to the free throw line and the game into its next media timeout.
Johnson’s two free throws protected his perfect free throw shooting percentage on the season. Tight defense from Sessoms and Lundy forced an inbound pass, but Dread lost his man and allowed a wide open three pointer, earning the ire of head coach Micah Shrewsberry. Despite the weak final minute, Penn State exited the first half on top 27-19.
Pickett opened up the half with two consecutive layups, bringing his game total to nine points. Baskets from Johnson and Dread brought the score to 36-22, but another three pointer from Minnesota’s Jamison Battle halted momentum.
Another two unanswered layups from Pickett increased Penn State’s lead to 15. Two three pointers from Minnesota cut the deficit to 11. The Gophers’ three point shooting remained hot, keeping their percentage at 50%.
Jamison Battle’s successful performance continued with a driving layup, giving him 15 points on the game. Dread hit a three pointer on the other side of the court to bring the score to 47-33, in the Nittany Lions’ favor. Good ball movement was paired with lackluster floor spacing, leading to a bad pass from Johnson.
Pickett’s offensive prowess out of the timeout continued to shine, scoring late into the shot clock. An airball three for the Gophers from Sean Sutherlin turned into a fast break. One spin move later and Jalen Pickett had 17 points.
Johnson returned to the line, characteristically converting and defending the Nittany Lions’ 10-0 run. A steal from Scott opened up an open look for Pickett from long range. Penn State headed into Minnesota’s timeout up 57-33, as the Legion of Blue exploded with just over nine minutes to play.
Harrar bullied his way into the paint for an easy bucket, before Minnesota’s Luke Loewe fired back with a three. Penn State led 59-36 with seven and a half minutes remaining. Patient passing from the Nittany Lions led to an and-one opportunity from Jalanni White, though he failed to convert at the line.
A single free throw and a dunk from Minnesota briefly cut the lead to 61-39, but misses from both teams kept the difference relatively stable. After 90 scoreless seconds, Dread broke the lid on the basket with a three pointer to make it a 65-39 game.
After the media timeout, reserves began to check in, giving the Nittany Lions a unique look. Sutherlin shot his second airball of the night, this time from the free throw line, setting off the Bryce Jordan Center. A big alley-oop from Jaheam Cornwall to White kept spirits high, as the game got to 67-42.
The Penn State bench erupted after junior guard Dan Conlan dove after a loose ball. In the final minute and a half, the Gophers scored four unanswered points with a layup and two free throw shots, bringing the final score to 67-46 as the Nittany Lions picked up the win.
- For a rescheduled game at 4 p.m. on a Thursday, the Bryce Jordan Center attendance was respectable. Though the seats behind each hoop were effectively empty, each other 100-level section held around 50% capacity.
- Jalen Pickett could not be stopped. Shooting 9-of-14, Pickett was incredibly active in every aspect of the game. If he can remain continue this momentum, Penn State’s offense will likely be in good shape.
- Team shooting was remarkably efficient. The Nittany Lions shot 53.8% from the floor and an even 50% from deep. Converting possessions was an important part of Penn State maintaining its lead, spending no time trailing at any point in the game.
- Ten turnovers is a good number. If the Nittany Lions can avoid turning the ball over consistently, it will open up more chances for them down the stretch. With a number of close games over the last couple of weeks, this improvement will likely please Shrewsberry and his staff.
The Nittany Lions will travel to the Maryland Terrapins in another Big Ten matchup on Monday, February 21. Tipoff is set for 7:00 p.m. inside the Xfinity Center, and the game will be televised on ESPN2.
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