Nittany Lions look for second straight win, host struggling Golden Gophers

Story posted January 28, 2015 in Sports, CommRadio by Jack Milewski

Fresh off a blowout win over Rutgers, its first conference win of the year, the Penn State basketball team hits the court again Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Bryce Jordan Center. The Nittany Lions (12-7, 1-6 B1G) will face off against the Minnesota Golden Gophers (13-8, 2-6 B1G) in search of their second straight win.

There have been some parallels between these two teams’ seasons thus far. The Golden Gophers stormed through their non-conference schedule, finishing 11-2. Their only two losses came against St. John’s and Louisville. However, just like the Nittany Lions, Minnesota has struggled out of the gate in Big Ten play. They lost their first five Big Ten games, and have only recently turned it around, winning two of their last three games.

The strength of the Golden Gophers is scoring the ball. They are ranked 25th in the nation in points per game and that is due largely in part because they spread the ball around. They average 17.5 assists per game, good for 6th in the nation. The Gophers have three players averaging double figures in points, and three more just outside that mark.

However, the reason this team has the record they do is because of their lack of effort on the other end of the floor. Minnesota ranks 179th in the nation in points per game allowed, giving up just over 66 points per contest. That number is even worse in conference play, as they are allowing nearly 70 points per game.

On the other side of the court, Penn State relies on one man to provide the bulk of the offensive production. D.J. Newbill is one of the premier scorers in the nation, averaging 22 points per game on the year, and 23.1 per game in Big Ten play.

The reason the Nittany Lions are starting to play better basketball is because their supporting cast is slowly starting to emerge. Brandon Taylor has scored in double figures in four of Penn State’s seven Big Ten games and is now averaging 9.9 points per game. Freshman Shep Garner is starting to come into his own and is averaging 9.6 points per game. Outside of that, the Nittany Lions don’t have many consistent scoring threats.

The key for the game for Penn State will be to limit the ball movement of Minnesota. The team likes to spread the floor and find the open man, as is evident by their assist numbers. If Penn State is able to contain one or two of their top scorers, it will be big for their chances.

In Minnesota’s case, it’s all about stopping the D.J. Newbill show, which is easier said than done. Even when teams key in on Newbill, he can still create scoring chances for himself at any time. He has scored under 17 points just three times this season and has been at 20 points or more 12 times, including a season high 37 against Purdue.

Tip is set for 7 p.m. on Wednesday night. ComRadio’s coverage of the game will start at 6:30 with the Penn State Basketball Pregame Show hosted by Alex Bobbyn and then Phil Constantino and Tyler Feldman will have the call of the game immediately following.

Jack Milewski is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email jbm250@psu.edu.