Congratulations to the Penn State Nittany Lions for a hard-fought win Saturday afternoon in Happy Valley. During a second half of runs, the Nittany Lions enjoyed the last one and grabbed a 68-63 win to even the season series with the Gophers.
The win moves Penn State to 7-6 and drops the Gophers to the same mark. And it sure feels like the Gophers are going in the wrong direction as the season's final stretch is upon us. The Gophers are 2-5 in their last seven games and were exposed again Saturday as an offensive team without an identity.
Devoe Joseph did everything he could to salvage this one for the Gophers, lighting it up from the outside to bring the Gophers storming back in the second half. Joseph had 23 points on 7 for 8 from three. But Joseph wasn't enough. He was joined offensively by Al Nolen, who managed to get to the free throw line a bit and hit two threes for 10 points.
But aside from the two point guards, the Gophers had nothing going offfensively, especially in a whistle-laden first half when Penn State went into the locker room up 24-23 on a last-second Talor Battle three pointer. That three pointer seemed to spark Battle, who scored 21 points and eventually picked Joseph's pocket with the game on the line with a minute remaning.
In looking at the boxscore, it's easy to look at Minnesota's 40 second half points and believe that the team played efficiently on offense. That wasn't really the case. For the game, the Gophers had 7 assists. Nolen had five of those. So, ball movement wasn't exactly leading to scores. The second half surge was largely because Joseph went nuts from the outside. If it weren't for that, the Gophers would have been blown out of the gym.
Defensively, the Gophers played OK. They shut down Jamelle Cornley, but also missed just enough assignments to allow Stanley Pringle to get hot during the second half from the outside. The usually stout Minnesota defense was somewhat reach-happy. The Gophers committed 27 fouls--Ralph Sampson III, Colton Iverson, Paul Carter and Damian Johnson all found themselves in foul trouble. That meant Penn State shot 28 free throws. Minnesota shot half that many.
That foul trouble also meant Travis Busch played a whopping 28 minutes--the second most on the team behind Nolen's 35. Busch didn't play half bad. His defense was solid on COrnley and he made a couple nice plays. But for a team that struggles mightily to find an offensive groove, Busch's extended action is somewhat troublesome.
For the second straight game, the Gophers were turnover happy. Lawrence Westbrook was punished for his four turnovers. He played just 13 minutes. On the game, Minnesota committeed 19 turnovers. Too many to win on the road against a decent opponent.
Moving forward, soemthing has to change, and I think it's personnel. There's no reason Tubby needs to play RSIII and Iverson at the same time. How about starting Nolen, Joseph (or Westbrook), Carter, DJ and RSIII. When Carter has been on the floor the last two games, he's added a different dimension. He can put the ball on the floor and get to the basket better than anyone on this team. Carter played just 16 minutes against Penn State (explainable in part because of foul trouble). When he was on the floor, he got to the free throw line 4 times, finished with 6 points and a team-high 7 rebounds.That's right. Carter led the team in reboudns in 16 minutes.
Up Next: Sitting at 7-6, the Gophers have three home games and two road games remaining. Next week, the Gophers travel to Michigan before coming home to host Northwestern. Then, the Gophers finish by heading to illinois before two final home games against Wisconsin and Michigan.