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Penn State Hoops Blows Lead To Minnesota In 75-70 Road Loss

Penn State men’s basketball (14-16, 8-11 Big Ten) fell to Minnesota (18-11, 9-9 Big Ten) 75-70 in the final road game of the regular season.

Puff Johnson had his best performance of the season with 19 points, while Ace Baldwin Jr. added 17 points and eight assists in the loss to the Gophers. Minnesota had four different players reach double figures offensively.

How It Happened

Mike Rhoades tweaked the starting lineup before taking the court against the Golden Gophers, replacing D’Marco Dunn with Johnson. Minnesota began the scoring with an easy layup from Cam Christie, and Johnson responded for the Nittany Lions with a triple from the left wing. Parker Fox and Qudus Wahab then traded buckets on the next couple of possessions to get the scoring flowing.

Nick Kern Jr. tried to extend the Penn State lead but was called for an offensive foul despite making the basket. Johnson went to work on the next trip down the floor by adding two more points to his early total. Dawson Garcia scored his first points of the game for the Gophers to bring them within one point of the Nittany Lions.

Johnson hit a deep three out of the under-16 media timeout to grab the lead for the Nittany Lions. Penn State pushed the pace in transition and moved the ball around the arc to find a wide-open Zach Hicks for another three.

Johnson fired another three for a heat check and sank it once again, forcing a Gophers’ timeout. The North Carolina transfer had 11 points in less than seven minutes.

A couple of possessions later, Wahab added to the run with a nice post move inside and Penn State led 18-8. Leo O’Boyle came off the bench to hit his first three of the game, and the Nittany Lions went into the second media timeout up 21-12 off the back of hot shooting.

Rhoades put on the full-court pressure out of the break, forcing a turnover which led to another O’Boyle three-pointer. Dunn headed to the line after the blue and white got back-to-back stops on the defensive end. Penn State led 26-12 at the halfway point of the opening 20 minutes.

The scoring drought of over four minutes continued for the Gophers with Baldwin adding two more points to the Penn State total and Minnesota missing on the other end of the floor. Out of the under-eight timeout, Hicks missed on a three, and Elijah Hawkins drilled the first triple of the game for Minnesota.

Baldwin silenced the momentum with a triple two steps behind the arc. Less than 15 seconds later, Baldwin banged another three-pointer to extend the lead to 36-17. Johnson rejoined the fun with his fourth three of the half. Fox headed to the line for two shots, making only one for the Gophers.

Wahab returned to the hook shot, and Penn State led 41-18 before Minnesota scored two points via free throws. The next couple of minutes were sloppy for both teams, and the scoring slowed down with halftime nearing. The Gophers went on a 6-0 run from there to cut into Penn State’s lead.

Hicks missed on a deep three-pointer, but Minnesota couldn’t gather the rebound as it went out of bounds, last touched by the Gophers. Baldwin headed to the line for a one-and-one opportunity but missed on the front end. RayQuawndis Mitchell stopped the run with a single free throw with Penn State still leading 42-26.

Fox cut the lead down to 14 with a put-back bucket in transition. Garcia drew a foul on the Nittany Lions with 39.3 seconds left and all the momentum shifting to the home team. Minnesota crawled its way back into the game with Penn State only scoring one point over the last four minutes of action.

Johnson stood tall in the paint and drew the offensive foul on the first possession of the second half. Hicks missed on a three on the other side of the court. Johnson rattled home a mid-range jumper to get the first bucket of the half for Penn State as the Nittany Lions still led by a dozen.

That lead was cut into by a Hawkins three-ball just a few moments later. Wahab completed a three-point play at the free throw line as his consistent play continued. Christie slammed home a dunk on the other end as the back-and-forth play started.

Kern sailed above the rim for the answer, and his dunk silenced the Gopher crowd. Mike Mitchell cut into the lead once again with a jumper from the elbow. Penn State held a 51-41 lead at the first break of the second half.

Kern showed off his athleticism with a beautiful reverse layup, but the Gophers responded again with a triple from Mitchell. Hawkins drilled a deep three on the next possession, and all of a sudden, it was just a 53-47 game with 11 minutes to play.

Out of the under-12 timeout, Christie connected on another jumper and all the momentum was in the hands of the Gophers. Baldwin couldn’t make his shot on the other end as Penn State went as cold. The Nittany Lions couldn’t buy a basket through 11 minutes into the second half.

Fox and Baldwin traded buckets on back-to-back possessions, with the Nittany Lions holding a slim 55-51 advantage. Hawkins brought it back to a two-point game which forced Rhoades to call another timeout to stop the momentum. However, Hicks silenced the crowd out of the timeout with his second triple.

Johnson could not hit on his next three-point attempt, but Mitchell gave the ball right back to the Nittany Lions after being called for a travel. Kern committed a turnover on the next possession, and the game became a defensive battle late. With 5:42 left in the second half, Wahab headed to the bench after being called for his fourth foul of the afternoon.

Christie gave Minnesota the lead with a tough drive to the hoop. After trailing by 23 points, the Gophers led 59-58 over the visitors. Christie drilled another three, and everything was going the way of Minnesota on a 9-0 run. Penn State trailed by four at the last media timeout.

Wahab returned to the floor and Johnson completed a three-point play to silence The Barn. Baldwin headed to the line after Penn State forced the stop and gave the lead back to the Nittany Lions 63-62. Mitchell retook the lead off a finger roll in transition, and the Gophers led by one with 2:04 left in regulation.

Out of the break, Wahab fouled out while going for a loose ball on a rebound. Losing the only true Penn State center was a huge loss for Rhoades’ team, and Christie knocked down both free throws and Minnesota led 66-63. After a Nittany Lion turnover, Hawkins drilled two more free throws to extend the Gophers’ lead.

O’Boyle and Jameel Brown missed on two three-pointers on the next possession, and Penn State began to foul as the writing was on the wall for the Nittany Lions. After a few missed free throws, Baldwin made it a one-possession game with another triple and 34 seconds left. Christie went back to the line and made two more free throws for the Gophers. Penn State gave up the 23-point lead and lost to Minnesota 70-75 on the road.

Takeaways

  • Penn State shot one of its best games of the season on the road at Minnesota. The blue and white started the game 9-11 from three, with triples coming from Nittany Lions who haven’t always shot well for the group. Johnson, O’Boyle, and Hicks all connected from behind the arc early.
  • Today’s game was truly the tale of two halves. Penn State hoops has been as inconsistent as you can be all year, and its near-.500 record reflects that. Everything was going the Nittany Lions’ way in the first half, but nothing seemed easy in the second frame.
  • This team does not know how to play with a lead. This is the second double-digit lead given up to Minnesota this year. Mike Rhoades has done a lot of things well as a first-year coach, but this is a glaring issue for the Nittany Lions.

What’s Next?

The Nittany Lions wrap up the regular season at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, March 10, at the Bryce Jordan Center against Maryland. The game will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network.

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About the Author

CJ Gill

CJ is a sophomore from McVeytown, Pennsylvania majoring in broadcast journalism and an associate editor at Onward State. He's a huge Phillies fan, which has its pro and cons come October. You can send all disagreements to [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @CJGill14.

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