Penn State Men’s Basketball vs. Minnesota Preview
Penn State is looking to get back on track as it hits the road against a struggling Minnesota team after dropping its last two, and five of its last six.
Playing on the road has been a problem for the blue and white, as it's 1-6 away from home with the lone win being at Northwestern. Saturday will be the fifth road game of the last seven.
The offensive struggles continue to mount for the Nittany Lions, who have averaged 56 points per game in regulation in their last six. In their most recent loss to Michigan, 58-57, they shot 7-of-29 from the floor in the final 20 minutes.
Senior guard Sam Sessoms says the poor shooting falls back on the shoulders of the team.
“It just came back to us making shots, making the right plays. I told a couple of guys after the game, we got to make shots,” Sessoms said. “Some days you just have that type of night, and it was unfortunate that it was a couple of us.”
While the offense has been a problem, the defense has been the mainstay for Penn State this year, consistently holding opponents below their seasonal average. Anchoring the defense is forward Seth Lundy who has stepped up all year long.
The Paulsboro, New Jersey, native has made it a point of emphasis locking up the Big Ten’s best.
Against Wisconsin, Lundy guarded one of the nation’s top scorers, Johnny Davis who’s averaging 20.8 points per game and held him below double digits for the first time all season. Davis finished the game with four points and 2-of-13 shooting.
After a 10-1 start to the season, including a perfect 9-0 mark against out of conference opponents, the Golden Gophers were looking like a bubble team. Since Big Ten play has ramped up, though, they’ve lost nine of their last 10.
There weren’t a lot of expectations for Ben Johnson in his first year at the helm, as Minnesota was picked to finish last in the Big Ten preseason poll. Right now, with a 2-10 Big Ten record, the Gophers sit in the basement.
In their most recent contest, the Golden Gophers fell in convincing fashion to Nebraska, 78-65, who was winless in conference heading into the game.
Despite averaging 68.5 points per game as a team, Minnesota boasts two high-quality scorers: Jameson Battle and Payton Willis.
Battle leads the team with 17.2 points per contest along with 6.5 rebounds per game. The 6-foot-7 sophomore is a dynamic scorer, as he has double digits in all but one game this year, including 21 points in the Golden Gophers recent game against the Cornhuskers.
Fans should get the popcorn ready as the George Washington transfer will likely be guarded by the defensive specialist in Lundy.
Willis has had quite the journey, he started at Vanderbilt, then transferred to Minnesota, and after spending a year at the College of Charleston, returned to Minneapolis for his final year of eligibility.
It’s certainly paid off for the Fayetteville, Arkansas, native who’s enjoyed his best year yet, averaging 16.5 points per game and 4.2 assists per game.
In the backcourt with Willis, is E.J. Stephens who’s notching 10.9 points per game.
For Penn State to win this game the offense has to find its rhythm and avoid the long stretches of scoreless basketball. The defense will once again prove to be a driving factor as the Gophers held in check offensively.
The Nittany Lions could walk out with their first win in Minneapolis since 2015 and a much-needed Big Ten win. Tip-off is set for 8:30 p.m. on the Big Ten Network.
Penn State 67, Minnesota 54
Matthew Scalzo is a second-year majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.