Going into the game, I really believed PSU didn’t have a chance. But the Nittany Lions showed some toughness on the road and lost a hard-fought game to a supposedly much better team.
It didn’t look like it was going to be that way at the start. PSU looked dreadful in the first 10 minutes or so of the game as Minnesota raced out to a 21-10 lead. The offense was sputtering and Minnesota was getting further and further ahead. Stephen Bardo, the ESPN color guy, pointed to the foul on a Chris Babb 3-pointer as the turning point for PSU. Talor Battle hit a 3 on the next possession and PSU cut the lead to 5, but what seemed to be forgotten was Minnesota then extended their lead back to 10 at 26-16. I thought Tim Frazier was a huge key to why PSU stayed in the game in the first half. He came in and had 3 pretty assists that set up easy baskets in the half-court offense, something PSU wasn’t able to get before (except for a few long range jumpers from Battle). They went into halftime down only 7, a moral victory considering their play.
But a different PSU team came to play in the 2nd half. The Nittany Lions came out roaring to start the second half, as they hit their first 7 field goals. In the first 7 minutes, PSU outscored the Gophers 17-5 as they jumped out to a 44-39 lead. Talor Battle only contributed 2 of the 17 points. The damage was done mostly by Drew Jones and Jeff Brooks, who were getting great looks inside and finishing. It was exciting and encouraging to watch.
Minnesota weathered the early storm to the half as Hoffarber and Westbrook really started to get going, but PSU wouldn’t go away. Frazier hit a pretty 8 foot floater on a fast break and Battle then hit one of his patented 30-footers. The score was in PSU’s favor at 53-50 with 9 minutes left, when the turnovers came at all the wrong times. Minnesota stepped up the pressure and the Lions weren’t able to handle it, whether it was fatigue, inexperience, or inability to hang onto the rock. They turned it over on 4 straight possessions.