Penn State Basketball: Late Rally Not Enough As Nittany Lions Fall 63-56 to Minnesota
Penn State battled back but miscues and missed shots doomed the Nittany Lions.
They fell in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis to an NCAA bubble-desperate Minnesota team 63-56.
The Gophers opened the game on a 9-0 run with Penn State struggling to score early. Both teams evened out their play after the hot and cold start. Penn State was able to keep the game within reach. The Nittany Lions cut a 10-point Minnesota lead to only five at 20-15 with just over five minutes remaining in the opening half. The duo of Tim Frazier and DJ Newbill created several baskets late in the first half with defensive contributions from freshman Geno Thorpe.
A basket at the buzzer pushed the Gopher lead back to five points but the game was still well within reach. Penn State was dominating on the glass and benefiting from Minnesota's shooting which wasn't much more consistent than the Nittany Lions.
The Gophers opened the most important half of their season on a 7-2 run. Minnesota outplayed the Nittany Lions for the majority of the second half. Penn State and Minnesota traded baskets with each team going on mini-runs.
However, as they have all season, Penn State found a way to get back into the game in the final minutes. Minnesota struggled from the free throw line and the Nittany Lions hit a few timely threes to cut an 11 point lead to only four points with 2:03 to play. The game was far from over.
After trading missed baskets, two Brandon Taylor free throws got the Nittany Lions within three, but Penn State opted to play defense with 45 seconds left rather than foul to extend the game. Andre Hollins hit a game clinching three with 15 seconds to play from the corner to secure a 6-point lead.
The Nittany Lions were led by Newbill's 16 points and seven rebounds. Frazier and Thorpe added 11 and 9 points respectively. Penn State as a team only shot 32-percent from the floor and was 5-of-21 from beyond the arc including several key misses early in the game.
In the end, Penn State's final regular season loss of the year was in many ways a microcosm of the season at-large. The Nittany Lions climbed back into the game through hard work, effort, and attitude, but made little mistakes against a team where the margin for error was equally as small. When the Nittany Lions were able to avoid mistakes and hit shots the outcome was their six Big Ten victories.
While nothing is official at this point, Penn State's season may be extended at least one more game if the Nittany Lions take part in the CBI tournament. That field will be announced in the coming days.