Quantcast 2011 Penn State Basketball: Penn State vs Minnesota

Penn State Basketball 2011

Big Ten football fans

Penn State Nittany Lions vs Minnesota Golden Gophers Basketball Recap

Penn State 66, Minnesota 63


It’s easy to segment basketball into offense and defense. On many occasions, an observer or analyst can rightly make clean and sharp distinctions between the two separate ends of the floor. On some nights, however, the line blurs between defense and offense; one mistake at one end feeds into the other side of the 94-foot hardwood slab, and that’s exactly what decided a Big Ten bubble game on Thursday night in University Park, Pennsylvania.

Yes, Penn State guard Talor Battle drained a 3-pointer from the left wing with under a minute left in regulation to power the Penn State Nittany Lions past the Minnesota Golden Gophers, but the biggest reason why the Blue and White toppled Minnesota was the shot that preceded Battle’s decisive bomb.

With 1:41 left in regulation, Minnesota owned a 60-59 lead on the road. Coach Tubby Smith’s Gophers – who had trailed by a 50-45 margin just a few minutes earlier and had been outplayed for most of the evening – scrapped and clawed to dig out a one-point edge. In possession of the ball, Minnesota figured to go inside and establish forward Trevor Mbakwe, a powerful player who smoked Penn State by catching lob feeds near the rim before the Nittany Lions’ backside help defense could arrive. Any team with a lead should be thinking about attacking the rim first and then kicking out only if the defense is able to collapse into the painted area. Yes, Minnesota lacked a true point guard (due to injuries and attrition), but Blake Hoffarber – who led all Gophers with 18 points – should have known what was needed on this most crucial offensive sequence.

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Instead, Hoffarber hoisted an ill-advised and contested three from the right wing. The ball caromed well wide of the basket and enabled Penn State to throw an outlet pass against a Minnesota defense that was out of position. Why were the Gophers scrambling to match up with Penn State? This dynamic emerged because the Gophers didn’t expect Hoffarber’s early 3-point shot at the other end of the court.  The Nittany Lions moved the ball smartly and efficiently, and as a result, Battle popped open behind the arc and drilled a 22-footer with icy efficiency. Penn State gained a 62-60 lead and pushed it to 65-60 after the Gophers turned the ball over on their next two trips down the court. Hoffarber hit a three with just under eight seconds left, but that shot was too little and too late. Penn State held on when Hoffarber missed a desperation trey just before the final horn.

Penn State is still in the hunt for an NCAA Tournament berth, albeit a very unlikely one. Minnesota is now 6-8 and squarely on the NCAA bubble.

It’s all because a bad shot on offense led to a poor sequence on defense. The two ends of the court became one in a calamitous way for a Minnesota team that’s likely to sweat bullets come Selection Sunday.


By Matt Zemek
DFN Sports Senior Staff Writer



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