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Penn State Basketball: White Hot Gophers Handle Penn State 81-71

by on February 25, 2017 6:00 PM

Heading into Saturday afternoon Penn State had won four straight against Minnesota, a rare streak for a Nittany Lion team prone to the ups and downs of the season and the growing pains of a transitioning program.

But by the time the clock read zero in Minneapolis the Gophers had made it seven straight wins this season, knocking off the Nittany Lions 81-71.

Penn State, or perhaps simply Tony Carr, started off well behind a combination of threes from both Carr and Shep Garner. The early surge gave Penn State a 13-11 lead with 10:54 to go in the half despite trailing 11-5 in the opening minutes of play.

From there it was the home team and one of the nation's hottest squads pushing back. The Gophers going up by as many as six points on a handful of occasions before Penn State would answer each time with a few points of its own. With 4:20 Penn State trailed by just six points despite a rather slow and often struggling offensive performance. Early fouls on Mike Watkins limited the big man's time and in turn opened the door for success inside for the Gophers who scored 34 points in the paint.

By the half Minnesota's lead had ballooned to 11 points as Penn State struggled to find the bottom on the hoop. All told Penn State's 36% shooting on the day did little to help the cause in spite of just five turnovers and seven makes from beyond the arc as Payton Banks and Shep Garner went a combined 8-28 from the field. Carr was the lone Nittany Lion with an efficient outing with 20 points on 15 attempts but his efforts weren't enough.

The second half was largely more of the same, Minnesota shooting 55% from the field in the final 20 minutes. The Gophers would lead by as many as 16 with 4:10 to go in the game despite Penn State pulling within single digits on a few occasions. The Nittany Lions struggling without Watkins and even while scoring 71 points on the road, it came at the cost of volume shooting rather than efficiency.

The day was perhaps best summarized by Reggie Lynch who managed to block 11 Penn State shots while registering no fouls. Minnesota as a whole was not an overwhelming problem for the Nittany Lions, but Watkins' foul trouble, playing just 16 minutes, coupled with poor shooting ultimately doomed Penn State.

Penn State will close out its home scheduled Tuesday night in the Bryce Jordan Center against Ohio State. 

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