Game Preview: Penn State vs. Minnesota
On Saturday night Penn State will hit the road to take on the Minnesota Golden Gophers. The Nittany Lions sit at 7-11 on the season and have yet to win a conference game, stalled at 0-7 in conference. Minnesota is 13-4 with a 3-3 conference record.
Last time out
Penn State took to the court on Wednesday night squaring off against 23rd-ranked Iowa. The Nittany Lions had one of their best offensive outputs of the season, putting up 82-points. Their stringent defense, however, was not itself in that game as they gave up 89 points to the Hawkeyes.
It appeared that Penn State was in prime position to pull the upset and pick up their first Big Ten win. They were up 45-40 at halftime and had control for much of the second half. Late in the game is when control shifted, as Iowa got hot and the Nittany Lions could not keep up down the stretch.
Minnesota went on the road and took a somewhat surprising loss to Illinois on Wednesday. The Illini had control of that game for the entire night, as they went into halftime up 51-28. Minnesota was outscored again in the second half and eventually fell 95-58.
It was a tough road loss for Minnesota and it will be interesting to see if Penn State can take advantage of a Minnesota team that is trying to rebound from a tough outing. The Golden Gophers have lost two of their last three games.
Keys to the game
For Penn State, Wednesday night’s game was different from what is expected. The Nittany Lions have been a team that has struggled offensively but has had success on the other side of the ball. Penn State needs to build off their offensive success that they saw against Iowa but also focus on maintaining a strong presence on defense.
On offense, Penn State usually looks to Lamar Stevens for the bulk of their production but on Wednesday Stevens only had eight-points. To the surprise of some, Nittany Lions seemed to be much more balanced offensively.
Seeing the success that this offensive balance led to, Penn State must make a strong effort to once again spread the ball around on offense and generate scoring from all their key players.
Minnesota, with a record of 13-4, may not be as good as their record shows. Penn State is in desperate need of a Big Ten victory and that opportunity might be staring them right in their face Saturday night, presenting an opportunity they must jump on.
Players to watch
Penn State is led by junior forward Lamar Stevens. Stevens is the engine that makes Penn State’s offense go, averaging 18.1 points per game this season. The Nittany Lions will only go as far as Stevens can take them.
The Nittany Lions must pay attention to Minnesota junior guard Amir Coffey, who is averaging 15.9 points per game. Against Illinois Coffey struggled, however, only putting up nine points. Seeing what happens when Coffey shuts down should be a sign for the Penn State defense, knowing they will need to slow him down to gain a big time advantage.
Can Penn State end their five-game losing streak and get their first Big Ten win of the season? Will Penn State follow up one strong offensive game with another? It will be a tall order to go on the road and pick up a win on Saturday night. Until the Nittany Lions prove they are capable of doing that, it will be hard to pick them.
Prediction: Minnesota 74, Penn State 66.
Jake Starr is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Sophomore / Broadcast Journalism