Every basketball prediction should come with a built in caveat or two. If a player is unstoppable, like Lawrence McKenzie was the other night, no amount of analysis of the factors that can determine the outcome of a game really matter. Another caveat, on display yesterday afternoon, is that if a team that is shooting 42% from the floor and 34% from the behind the three point line shoots 64% from the floor and 67% (6-9) from the three in the first half, the final score will be much different than it should have been.
In more of testament to Penn State’s true colors shining through, and less to Minnesota playing a better second half, Minnesota was able to overcome the Nittany Lions’ hot shooting to win rather comfortably by the score of 75-68.
The Gophers won by only seven points, but in a game reminiscent of Minnesota’s home loss to Michigan State, the outcome never felt in doubt. There simply was no way Penn State could continue their hot shooting, and despite hitting seemingly every shot, they were never able to build an insurmountable lead.
Penn State hit 12 of their first 16 shots, including several long two pointers, and 6-8 three pointers, but at the 6 minute mark, when Penn State finally started missing, they were only up by ten points despite the Gophers only shooting 7-22 at the time, including a stretch of 11 misses in a row. Penn State may have been unable to put the game out of reach if not for Jonathan Williams. For the second game in a row the Junior center closed a gaping whole, this time ending the Gophers shooting woes by making consecutive baskets, including a mid-range jumper that was previously out of his range.
Over the last 6 minutes of the half, with the Nittany Lions reverting their true selves, Minnesota made up what had grown to a 13 point deficit, by holding Penn State to only six more points in the half. During their run, Minnesota benefited from 3’s by Blake Hoffarber, Damian Johnson, and Lawrence McKenzie. Unfortunately, in what has become a recurring theme, Penn State was able to score just as the half expired.
The second half began as the first half ended, with another Gopher run. Minnesota scored the first 11 points of the half, eventually securing their own thirteen point lead. Penn state made a furious run towards the end, aided by Danny Morissey’s hot shooting and a bone headed play by Dan Coleman (not as bone headed though as Penn State continually running away from Gophers, both at the top of the key and under the basket) in which he simply ran over a three point shooter.
Who did what?
- Dan Coleman showed more life that he has in the last several games combined. Unfortunately, the team may benefit more form a subdued Coleman. He missed several wide open lay ups and top ins. He scored 10 points, but needed 12 shots to get there (he made 4). He added 7 rebounds (4 offensive, all missed tip ins) and came away with 2 blocks.
- Spencer Tollackson didn’t exactly dominate the paint, but he didn’t miss either. He finished with 9 points on 4-4 shooting, but was once again out rebounded by much shorter players. At least he didn’t overtly celebrate minor accomplishments.
- Lawrence Westbook tied his career high with 15 points. On a day when the rest of the Gophers shot a combined 10-22 from the line, Westbrook made all 6 of his free throw attempts, including two in the final minute. His behind the back pass to Spencer Tollackson should be on youtube soon if it isn’t already.
- Needless to say, Lawrence McKenzie is human. He scored 11 points on 3-12 shooting. Despite beating his man off the dribble at will, he insisted on shooting three pointers (3-9).
- Al Nolen continues to develop in the best pure point guard the Gophers have had recently. He scored 7 points, made his free throws, and had 4 assists with only one turnover.
- Damian Johnson’s spectacular games may be over for a while. He scored 5 points with only two rebounds.
- Jonathan Williams may be doing more to get fans excited about next year than the incoming recruiting class (which will need his solid play as they learn the Big Ten game). He scored 8 points, had a thunderous momentum changing dunk. For a team that always struggled with rebounding, he was solid with 5 including 3 on the offensive end.
- Blake Hoffarber loves playing unathletic teams. He scored 10 points on 3-5 shooting (all from 3).
- Jamal Abu-Shamala had an assist in limited playing time.
- Kevin Payton continues to get minutes. In 10 minutes of work he had two assists and a steal, with no other numbers in the box score.
Highlights from the Big Ten Network: