Gophers 68, Penn State 65, An Ugly Game Can Still Net You a Win

Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Malik Smith iced the game with four free throws in the final 30 seconds to hold off Penn State as the Gophers clawed their way to a 3-point road win.  His free throws, DeAndre Mathieu's 16 points, Andre Hollin's 14 points and Elliott Eliason's double-double was just enough for the Gophers to sneak out a win over the Nittany Lions.

The anticipated backcourt dual of Andre and Austin Hollins vs. Tim Frazier and D.J. Newbil really just turned into the  Tim Frazier show.  The PSU guard scored 20 points had 8 assists and 5 rebounds before fouling out of the game 58 seconds left in what was a tie game.  Newbil contributed zero points before fouling out and for Minnesota Austin Hollins struggled with just four points.  Andre managed to get to 14 but 4/12 from the floor is not one of his better games.  Frazier, on the other hand, was a match-up problem for the Gophers tonight and the outcome could have been very different had he been playing in the final minute.

Penn State started the game cold and spotted Minnesota an early 10-point lead.  But they retook the lead with 5:09 left in the first half and didn't relinquish that lead until 1:43 left in the game on a tip-in by DeAndre Mathieu.  This was a game marred by a lot of fouls from inconsistent officiating.  53 total fouls led to 63 combined free throw attempts.  And the inordinate amount of free throw attempts for the Big Ten's two leading teams in free throw percentage didn't exactly lead to more point as both teams struggled from the line.  Neither team was able to shoot 65%.  This dramatically slowed the pace of the game and frustrated both fan bases with key missed free throws.

But it was Malik Smith who came through in the clutch.  Minnesota was clearly trying to inbound the ball to him when facing the Penn State press followed by the inevitable foul.  And Smith went 4-4 when it mattered most.  This was a nice win from the standpoint that any road win in the Big Ten, when you are not one of the conference's elite teams, is a nice win.  But it wasn't pretty.

I've been pretty confident that this Gopher squad will have some nights like tonight when things just don't seem to flow offensively and we struggle defensively.  Tonight was one of them and we were very fortunate it was against Penn State.  Up next is as difficult a stretch of games as anybody in the country will see all year.

  • @ #5Michigan State
  • #3 Ohio State
  • @ #20 Iowa
  • #4 Wisconsin

Yeah, that's three of the top five teams in the country with a road game against a top 20 team in the middle.  A game like tonight against any of those teams, especially the ones ranked in the top 5, and you'll be able to turn the game off early in the 2nd half.  I also believe there will be nights where this club is hitting on all cylinders and they can compete with some awfully good teams.  Should be an interesting stretch.

Tonight was a road win in the Big Ten and before we travel to East Lansing we sit at 2-1 in the Big Ten.

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