Game: (10)Penn State (15-16, 6-12 Big Ten) vs. (7 )Minnesota (19-12, 8-10 Big Ten)
Date: March 13, 2014
Time: 6:30 p.m. EST
The Penn State Nittany Lions won just six games in the Big Ten this season, but did make an improvement on the two wins a year ago. The Nittany Lions went 6-12 in the Big Ten and finished in 10th place in the conference, matching them up with the Minnesota Golden Gophers, who finished seventh in the conference. These two teams just met four days ago on Sunday in the regular season finale. The Golden Gophers never trailed in that game and finished with the commanding 81-63 victory. Minnesota took both games between the two schools this season.
Luckily for the Nittany Lions, the recent loss to the Golden Gophers should be fresh in their mind and provide some extra motivation for the tournament. Few, if any, would expect Penn State to make a run at the championship this week. A miracle outcome such as that would land the Nittany Lions in the NCAA Tournament, something they have no shot at otherwise. The road to an improbable run starts with an upset of the Gophers.
In Sunday’s matchup, the Nittany Lions could do very little right. They stumbled out of the gate, falling behind by 20 points just over nine minutes into the game. Guard D.J. Newbill continued his recent fantastic play and was the lone bright spot for Penn State. He scored a game-high 24, with 15 of those coming in the second half. Fellow guard Tim Frazier added 14 points, but made just two shots from the field.
Players other than Newbill and Frazier are going to have to step up this time around if the Nittany Lions plan on getting a different outcome against Minnesota this time around.
Minnesota was probably excited to see Penn State on its bracket. The Golden Gophers dominated the game on Sunday and will look for a repeat of that performance this time around. Senior guard Austin Hollins played a big role in the victory, scoring 14 points and making three steals. Minnesota got a surprising effort from Maverick Ahanmisi. The senior had scored just two points over his last 17 games, but broke out and tied his career high with 13 points against the Nittany Lions.
The Golden Gophers shot 56 percent from the field and missed just five foul shots in Sunday’s victory. They had three starters score in double-digits, as well as two guys off the bench.
Although the Nittany Lions did not play well the last time around against the Gophers, they did have a chance for a victory at the Bryce Jordan Center back in January. Penn State had a second-half lead, but gave it up with less than two minutes remaining in the game.
This won’t be an easy matchup, but it’s one that the Nittany Lions have a chance in if things fall their way. Penn State has shown flashes of solid basketball this season, but have been bitten by costly mistakes one too many times.
Follow VBR Lead Editor Barry Leonard Jr. on Twitter