The Gophers cleared a major hurdle on Wednesday night in their quest to make the NCAA Tournament, trouncing Wisconsin at home 70-52. With the victory the Gophers added another Quad 1 win to their resume but, more importantly, picked up another conference win as they scramble to collect as many as possible by season’s end.
The Jekyll and Hyde act continued for Minnesota, who rebounded to shoot a cool 41% from the field after a string of games in the low 30s or high 20s. It was a stark reminder how dangerous this team is when a third player contributes in meaningful fashion and the team shoots reasonably well. In this case it was Payton Willis, who scored a career-high 21 points and was lights out from the field. If Minnesota can get good performances from three players a game they are a tough out.
The brutality continues in a quick turnaround game against Penn State. Minnesota won a hard-fought, chippy game at The Barn a few weeks ago, which culminated in some post-game trash talk between Daniel Oturu and Lamar Stevens, so tensions may be running high.
The Nittany Lions have rebounded from a three-game January losing streak and have now won five in a row, including three on the road.
Penn State Nittany Lions (7-4, 17-5)
Date and Time:
Saturday, Feb. 8 @ 3 p.m. CT
Bryce Jordan Center
Tell me more about the opponent.
The Gophers are on a five-game winning streak against Penn State, but the Nittany Lions may be one of the hottest teams in the conference. They’re coming off a road win against Michigan State and are ranked #22 in the AP Top 25. In fact, the last time Penn State lost was to Minnesota in their most recent matchup.
The Gophers walked away with that game thanks to dominating performances from Daniel Oturu (27 and 14) and Marcus Carr (27 points, 9 assists, 6 rebounds). The latter of which was basically hero status. Minnesota was able to turn up the defense in the second half where Penn State when ice cold from the field.
The Bryce Jordan Center is a cavernous, soulless place, and generally not considered all that intimidating. However the Lions are 11-1 at home this season, with their lone loss coming to Wisconsin. Lamar Stevens is still their best player, and is fourth in the conference in scoring at 16.9 points per game. Myreon Jones is second on the team with 14 points per game.
Defensively, Penn State is very good, and come in at 15th in KenPom. They lead the Big Ten in forcing turnovers (nearly 15 per game) and steals per game. Mike Watkins is a force up the middle and leads the conference in blocks per game.
The Gophers match up well with Penn State and were able to frustrate them in the first game. If the offense again runs through Oturu and Carr and one of either Kalscheur or Willis have a big game the Gophers should be in position to take this one as well.
Still, it’s a quick turnaround for Minnesota and another day road game, which they really have trouble with for some reason. In fact, they haven’t won on the road in a matinee since 2017 at Rutgers. I’m going with Penn State by 5.