Penn State vs. Minnesota Preview

Story posted January 8, 2014 in Sports, CommRadio by Mike Gilbert

Penn State will attempt to erase its 0-2 start in Big Ten conference play this week with a home matchup against the Minnesota Golden Gophers.  Minnesota, led by first-year coach Rich Pitino, is coming off of their first conference win against Purdue.

Last season under coach Tubby Smith, the Gophers trounced the Lions by 29 points, en route to an NCAA Tournament appearance.  However, Smith was fired after the season, and former Florida International coach, Pitino was hired in his place. 

Even after losing star center Trevor Mbakwe, the Gophers are a solid rebounding team, ranking third in the conference in both offensive and defensive boards.  They also average 4.4 blocks per contest, and 14.7 assists per game, both good for first in the Big Ten.  Despite the advantages in assists, blocks, and rebounding, Pitino’s club owns the most turnovers in the conference.

The major playmakers for the Golden Gophers include Austin and Andre Hollins, who are unrelated.  Andre leads the club in scoring, and Austin leads in minutes played and steals.  Both also make significant contributions on the glass.  Meanwhile, Elliot Eliason has been a solid post man, averaging 8.2 rebounds per game, while providing stability to a frontcourt that lacks depth.

Minnesota’s offense is fast and furious, allowing guards Andre Hollins and Deandre Mathieu to use their quickness to turn fast breaks into points.  They tend to put up quick shots if they don’t score on the fast break, and lead the Big Ten in three-point attempts.

On the other side, Penn State has a tough stretch of games upcoming, including matchups against Indiana, Michigan and Purdue.

Saturday’s defeat to Illinois put the Nittany Lions at 0-2 in Big Ten play, and during the 20-point loss, Lions guard D.J. Newbill was ejected after shoving Illini’ player Kendrick Nunn.  Penn State shot 17-of-57 from the field, and had only three assists the entire game.

Currently sitting at 9-6, Penn State needs to do some serious work during the conference schedule to be in the discussion for an at-large NCAA Tournament bid. 

After Penn State, Minnesota plays four ranked teams in a row, playing Michigan State and Iowa on the road, and Ohio State and Wisconsin at home. 

Mike Gilbert is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email michael.gilbertPSU@gmail.com.

Photo Courtesy: (AP Photo/Robin Scholz)