Penn State gave a valiant effort Thursday night, but it was too little to late against the Minnesota Golden Gophers. The Nittany Lions were hoping to make a run in the Big Ten Tournament but were eliminated 63-56 by the Gophers. Penn State dropped three games this season to Minnesota, including the regular season finale on Sunday.
At the start this game looked like a repeat of Sunday. The last time these two teams met, Minnesota went up by 20 points less than 10 minutes into the game. The Gophers started hot again in this one, jumping out to a 9-0 lead. However, this time, the Nittany Lions were able to battle back and keep the game close, pulling to within five by halftime. Unfortunately for Penn State it was not enough. The Nittany Lions climbed to within three under a minute to go in the game but that’s as close as they would get.
The Nittany Lions played much better in this game than the last time, but were unable to grab a lead in the game as the Gophers proved to just be too much to handle.
As per the norm over the last month of the season, guard D.J. Newbill led the way for the Nittany Lions. The second-team All-Big Ten selection had a fantastic finish to his year and he kept it going against Minnesota. He led the team with 16 points and also led in rebounds with seven. Tim Frazier, who’s now played his last game in a Penn State uniform, added 11 points and a team-high five assists in the losing effort.
Penn State was doomed by the play of its post players in this one, something that’s plagued the team all season. The guys down low managed just 12 total points. Picking up the scoring slack off the bench were guards Joe Johnson and Geno Thorpe. Johnson finished with eight points while Thorpe contributed nine.
Minnesota was once again led by senior guard Austin Hollins, who scored a game-high 18 points. Deandre Mathieu added 13 points.
The Golden Gophers seemed to lose focus a bit in the second half when they let the Nittany Lions back in the game. They struggled from the foul line late but were ultimately able to hit enough big shots down the stretch. The victory means that Minnesota will advance to the second round on Friday night to face Wisconsin.
The Nittany Lions finished this season with an overall record of 15-17 and 6-12 in the Big Ten. While the record is still not great, it’s an improvement over the two conference wins they managed last year.
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