Game: Penn State (15-15, 6-11 Big Ten) Vs. Minnesota (18-12, 7-10 Big Ten)
Date: March 9, 2014
Time: 5:15 p.m. EST
TV: Big Ten Network
This season has been one of many ups and downs for the Penn State Nittany Lions. Inconsistent play and a failure to close out games has resulted in several close losses. However, with a victory Thursday night at Northwestern, the Nittany Lions now have an opportunity to finish the regular season with two-straight victories. The Nittany Lions played a great game, especially on defense, limiting the Wildcats to just 32 total points.
Sunday’s game takes Penn State to Minnesota to take on the Golden Gophers. These two teams last met back on January 8th in State College, a game that Minnesota won 68-65.
In that game, the Nittany Lions blew a second-half lead by falling behind with less than two minutes remaining. They struggled to shoot from the floor, converting just 38 percent. Senior point guard Tim Frazier led the way for Penn State. He scored 20 points, grabbed five boards and dished out eight assists. Forward Ross Travis also had a big game against the Gophers with 18 points and a game-high 13 rebounds.
Recently, the Nittany Lions have been getting solid production down low from both Travis and Brandon Taylor. Travis has been strong on the boards and ranks fifth in the conference, grabbing seven rebounds a game. Effective play in the frontcourt helps to take the pressure off of the backcourt, which Penn State has need to rely heavily on all season.
Frazier and fellow guard D.J. Newbill have been the main contributors this season. Newbill has been playing fantastic basketball as of late and leads the team with 17 points a game. That currently puts him third in the Big Ten Conference. He will once again be needed if the Nittany Lions want to come out victorious.
Head coach Richard Pitino, the son of Rick Pitino, and his Golden Gophers enter this matchup in a bit of a slump, losing seven of their last 10 games. Their last time on the court was March 1st, a 66-56 defeat at Michigan.
Minnesota is led in scoring by a trio of guards. Andre Hollins (14.6 PPG), Deandre Mathieu (11.8 PPG, 4.3 APG) and Austin Hollins (11.6 PPG). Mathieu ranks fourth in the conference in assists.
Down low, the Gophers rely on their big center Elliott Eliason. His nearly seven-foot, 240-pound frame causes matchup problems for opposing teams in the paint. He only scores just under six points a game but is fourth in the Big Ten in rebounding and third in blocks. The last time against the Nittany Lions he led the team with 11 points and 12 rebounds.
This is the final regular season game for both teams as they get ready to start the Big Ten Tournament next week. The Nittany Lions will look to keep the positive momentum going by beating the Gophers and carrying it into the conference tournament and even next season.
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