When Penn State basketball traveled to play Minnesota Saturday night, they had little more than a sliver of a chance to make the NCAA Tournament. When they arrived back in State College with their 76-69 victory safely in their pocket, that sliver got a little bigger.
Penn State Basketball highlights
I grew up in the 80s, so I didn’t get to really root for Penn State basketball all that much. The ’90s saw Dan Earl, Joe Crispin, and Pete Liscky and things started to perk up.
The 2000s introduced us to Talor Battle and Lamar Stevens and we won a couple of NIT tournaments.
It is not a stretch at all to say that Jalen Pickett is the best player to ever don a Penn State uniform. His second season in Happy Valley is literally historic.
Coming on the heels of his 41-point outburst against Illinois, which was not only his own season-high but also the Big Ten’s season-high as well, Pickett picked right up where he left off on Valentine’s Day.
By the end of the first half, he had 18 points on seven of nine from the field, three of four from 3-point land. He also had three rebounds, seven assists, and one steal.
IN THE FIRST HALF!!!
For the game, he led Penn State in scoring with 32 points, in rebounds with nine, and in assists with eight. Every time he takes the court a triple-double is in play.
Camren Wynter finished with 14 points and five assists. He also had the greatest shot that did not count, hitting an off-balance half-court shot after a foul had been called.
Tale of Two Halves
Coming out of the locker room with a 45-35 lead, Penn State entered one of the usual droughts that have plagued them all season.
By the time Penn State recorded their first basket12:36 mark of the second half, their 10-point lead had completely evaporated.
As long as they continue to struggle to finish teams off when they have them down, the season will continue to be the wild roller coaster we’ve all come to love.
Another area of concern was the defense or lack thereof, in the first half. While the Nittany Lions were humming along to the tune of 45 points, Minnesota rattled off their own 35 points.
The Golden Gophers went 15 for 27 (55.6%) from the field for the first half and 28-56 (50%) for the game. They outrebounded Penn State 33-31 and also had five more assists, 22 to 17.
So you’re saying there’s a chance for Penn State Basketball
With Saturday’s win, Penn State’s record is now 16-11 and 7-9 in the conference. TeamRanking.com, one of the plethora of websites covering “Bracketology” predictions, estimated the Nittany Lions with a 14% chance before Saturday’s win.
The magic number seems to be 20 wins. The largest percentage increase in getting into “The Dance” comes in the jump from 19 to 20 victories. TR estimates Penn State would have a 43.9% chance of gaining a bid. Win another game after that and it jumps to 69.1%
Penn State basketball has four regular-season games remaining: at Ohio State, Rutgers, at Northwestern, and closing at home against Maryland.
When the Nittany Lions play their game, every one of those contests is winnable. Realistically speaking, winning the two home games and beating Ohio State on the road sees us needing to win at least one, but probably two, Big Ten tourney games.
I’ve always been an eternal optimist, and even though I recognize it’s a tall order, nothing seems impossible with this group.