Game Preview: Men’s Basketball vs. Minnesota
Host Logan Bourandas and analysts Andrew Field and Jack McCune dive into Penn State's next matchup against the Minnesota Golden Gophers.
The 22nd-ranked Penn State Nittany Lions (17-5, 7-4) will host the Minnesota Golden Gophers (12-10, 6-6) Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m. at the Bryce Jordan Center. The Nittany Lions will be looking to add to their five-game winning streak, which includes a 75-70 win over Michigan State in East Lansing on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Minnesota is coming off a dominant 70-52 win over Wisconsin at home on Wednesday. Let’s preview the matchup between two Big Ten contenders looking for an invite to the NCAA Tournament come March.
The Beast from the East
The Nittany Lions currently sits at fourth place in the Big Ten standings with nine games left, and they have the second-best record in the conference overall. They’re just a game behind Illinois and Maryland, which are both tied for first. Maryland is also on a five-game winning streak, which could be helpful for the Nittany Lions in the AP Poll, as they beat the Terrapins back in early December.
After a bit of a dry spell from the offense for a few games, the unit looks back to normal following the Tuesday night win as Penn State’s leaders took over. Lamar Stevens put up 24 points and hauled in seven rebounds against the Spartans, while Myreon Jones finished with 20 points and six sinks from downtown.
A Season of Disappointment
After knocking Penn State out of the Big Ten Tournament last season and earning an appearance in March, the Golden Gophers have struggled to maintain their quality of play this season after losing seven players from last year, including leaders Amir Coffey and Jordan Murphy.
But one upside so far has been the improvement of sophomore center Daniel Oturu, who is averaging nearly 20 points and a little over 11 rebounds per night. There’s also redshirt sophomore Marcus Carr, who has filled in for Coffey’s absence nicely, averaging 15.5 points and shooting 32.4% from 3-point range.
This team just doesn’t have the talent that it did last season, but the Gophers’ NCAA Tournament hopes are still alive. If they can limit Mike Watkins defensively by forcing him to the perimeter on switches, that could give Carr a chance to drive and open up the lane for Oturu.
A Golden Win for the Gophers Last Time Around
Minnesota beat Penn State 75-69 in Minneapolis back on Jan. 15. To no one’s surprise, the dynamic duo led the way. Carr put up 27 points and nine assists and shot 10-of-11 from the free-throw line, while Oturu scored 26 and grabbed 14 boards. Just as expected, they secured the victory by limiting Watkins on both ends, as he put up just seven points and was constantly forced up to the perimeter.
But it wasn’t all bad for the Nittany Lions. Freshman forward Seth Lundy put up 15 points in just 26 minutes in his first ever start, and he has started ever since.
A big difference in the game was the stripe. While both teams were very inefficient from the field, Minnesota went to the line 29 times and missed six shots, while Penn State went 20 times and missed seven. It obviously didn’t help the Nittany Lions that Watkins wasn’t there to anchor the post, as smaller players were forced to foul rather than allow easy layups, so that will have to be a big point of emphasis for Saturday’s game.
It wouldn’t be a huge deal if the Nittany Lions lost this game, but they want to prove that they might be the team to beat in the conference, and a sellout Bryce Jordan Center crowd would be all for it. Meanwhile, this is a must-win for Minnesota if it wants to boost its résumé and get into the tournament. But the Golden Gophers are 1-7 so far on the road. The Nittany Lions, meanwhile, are 11-1 at home. Penn State should close it out at the end.
Prediction: Penn State 75, Minnesota 70
Jack McCune is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.