Basketball Preview: Minnesota
Joe Murphy, Jon Gross and Zach Seyko preview the matchup between conference foes Penn State and Minnesota.
Three: That’s how many games are left until the end of the regular season for the Penn State Nittany Lions. Sadly for Penn State, that isn’t great news. At 14-14 (6-9 Big Ten) Penn State hasn’t been able to stay consistent losing some matches that should have been easy wins at times and beating teams like Maryland at others.
Last time out, the Nittany Lions couldn’t take down Purdue at home, losing 74-70 in overtime. Their biggest problem that led to their downfall was their three point shooting. Penn State made only two of 18 threes during the game.
Granted, it was much closer than anyone had predicted and shows that this team has a lot of potential down the road, but at the moment it’s the losses in the record column that matter. Penn State needs to find the consistency they have lacked all year before they can be considered nearly as good as they are expected to become.
On Saturday Penn State travel to take on the Minnesota Golden Gophers, a team that has won six straight Big Ten matchups. The Golden Gophers, at 21-7 (9-6 Big Ten) are in fourth place in the Big Ten, a game behind Maryland and three games out of first place. If they can win their last three games, they have a chance to move in to the top three, maybe higher.
Even with the six-game win streak, Minnesota is coming into this contest with a sour taste in its mouth after the Golden Gophers fell to Penn State in mid-January, 52-50. Penn State won that game, partially due to winning the rebound game, a rare feat for the Nittany Lions.
The biggest threat to Penn State is going to be Jordan Murphy. The 6-foot-6 sophomore forward has dominated in the paint this year, averaging 8.5 rebounds per game. Penn State’s biggest problem is rebounding and Mike Watkins is going to have his work cut out for him to get the boards first and keep the Lions in the game.
Leading Minnesota’s offense is junior guard Nate Mason, who averages 15.1 points per game. He averages 37.2 percent on two point shots and 38.3 percent on threes. Penn State’s leading scorer, Tony Carr averages 12.9 points per game, though has a better two point average at 39.1 percent.
Minnesota’s leading deep ball man Akeem Springs comes off the bench more often than not and averages 10.1 points while hitting 39.7 percent of his threes. His counterpart in blue and white will be Shep Garner or Payton Banks, depending on the moment. Garner averages 35.6 percent of his threes and 12 points per game while Banks has a couple fewer shots but averages 36.6 percent and 11 points.
Banks and Garner could both take the role depending on the day it seems. Both players are extremely hard to predict as seemingly one day they are red-hot and have a lid on the basket the next.
Penn State’s key of the game is going to have to be on the glass again this week. If they can continue to give themselves opportunities and not give up points to offensive rebounds they have shown they can beat good teams, including this Minnesota team.
It’s incredibly hard to predict how Penn State will play from one game to the next but look for Minnesota to continue their hot streak, winning a seventh in a row.
Prediction: Minnesota 75 – Penn State 68
Tommy Butler is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.