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Penn State Basketball: Early Turnovers, Slow Start Doom Nittany Lions Against Gophers

by on March 09, 2014 8:44 PM

A game can be won or lost in only minutes, and as Penn State found out on Sunday a slow start can doom your chances of winning before the game is even halfway over.

The Nittany Lions fell 81-63 on the road despite a 20-4 second half run that saw Penn State erase a 25-point deficit.

Penn State opened the game sluggishly as the Gophers looked to secure a win that could be vital to their postseason hopes. Six Nittany Lion turnovers in the opening nine minutes of play helped turn an 8-2 Minnesota lead into a 23-3 advantage with 11:52 to go in the first half.

The Nittany Lions made a minor comeback in the latter stages of the opening 20 minutes turning the deficit into a manageable 14 point margin by halftime. The Gophers scored 14 points off Penn State turnovers which magnified the Nittany Lions' struggles as they looked to regain their offensive footing.

Junior guard DJ Newbill would take over most of the offensive duties for Penn State while the Nittany Lions climbed back into the game -- preventing the second half from being simply a formality.

With NCAA Tournament aspirations on their mind, the Gophers didn't let up at all and would push the 14 point lead to 25 points within the first six minutes of the second half. Hustle plays and strong shooting got Penn State back into the game though and that 20-4 run over a five minute span saw the 25 point Gopher lead shrink to only 9 points with 8:37 to play.

Minnesota didn't let that offensive explosion go on any longer though with Minnesota pushing its lead to 14 just over a minute later. Penn State senior guard Tim Frazier would score nine straight points for the Nittany Lions but Minnesota baskets and free throws pushed the lead further and further ahead -- reaching the 20 point mark yet again.

Penn State shot 40-percent from the field and 38-percent from three but 16 turnovers and a slow start doomed the Nittany Lions out of the gate despite hanging with the Gophers for 30 or so minutes of play. Newbill led Penn State with 24 points as Frazier chipped in 14, 10 coming from the free throw line.

Both teams will face off again on Thursday in the first round of the Big Ten tournament.

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Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for StateCollege.com. He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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