Gophers Fall Short on Senior Day

MINNEAPOLIS — On Senior Day, the Gopher basketball team was looking to end their four-game losing streak while avenging their previous loss to Penn State. Despite a strong second half, which gave the Gophers the lead late in the game, they floundered in the closing minutes, falling to the Nittany Lions 66-63.

With senior point guard Al Nolen dressed for his final home game as a Gopher, Minnesota took the court looking to end their season on a high note against the Nittany Lions of Penn State.

During warm-ups and introductions the Gophers looked ready and eager to get the game underway and to win for their seniors. With the game started, Minnesota jumped out to a quick lead with a smooth Rodney Williams jumper from the baseline.

Penn State quickly responded with a basket that was promptly answered with a 3-pointer by Blake Hoffarber. After two made free throws by Andrew Jones, the Gophers went on a 9-2 run thanks to field goals by Hoffarber, Trevor Mbakwe and a huge slam by Williams.

With the score 14-6, it looked as though Minnesota was getting into the rhythm of their offense but the gritty Nittany Lions battled back to take the lead with just over 10 minutes left in the first.

Penn State extended this lead to six points two times in the first Minnesota hung around and went into the break with a score of 33-30 in favor of the Nittany Lions.

The Gophers started the first half scoring a quick four points thanks to an intentional foul on Jeff Brooks—who hacked Williams on his way to the hoop. The sophomore small forward knocked down both shots from the line and Minnesota quickly got the ball to Blake Hoffarber who put in an easy layup.

The teams battled hard through most of the second half, with Penn State gaining momentum with their 3-point shooting. At the 11:12 mark, Nittany Lion standout Talor Battle nailed a three to put Penn State up by a score of 52-44, their largest lead of the contest.

For the next seven minutes, the Nittany Lions went cold—only scoring two points, allowing the Gophers to go on a 10-2 run, resulting in a tie ball game with only two minutes in the game.

David Jackson hit two free throws to give Penn State the lead for a short time until Blake Hoffarber brought the crowd to their feet with an acrobatic layup through contact—drawing the foul. Just 11 seconds later, Talor Battle canned a three which was followed up by a jumper by Hoffarber to tie the game at 59.

After some nice ball movement by Penn State, Jeff Brooks stepped into a 3-pointer at the top of the key and nailed it—giving the Nittany Lions the lead that they wouldn't relinquish. Despite a late three by Hoffarber, Penn State hit their free throws down the stretch to beat the Gophers 66-63.

After the game Trevor Mbakwe noted the Gophers' inability to close out games.

"We played good basketball for the first 35 to 36 minutes of the game, and the last four minutes have been killing us these last 10 games or so. We are just not making shots," Mbakwe said.

With the loss, the Gophers are now 17-13 on the year and 6-12 in conference. The team will travel to Indianapolis to take on Northwestern on Thursday in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament.

Inside the Game

Talor Battle again dominated the Gophers. The senior guard scored 22 points including 4-for-9 from deep and 6-for-6 from the line.

Also playing well for the Nittany Lions was Jeff Brooks who had a monster game with 20 points, seven rebounds and three blocks.

Rodney Williams was the star for Minnesota on Sunday, scoring 14 points and adding five rebounds, three steals, two assists and two blocked shots, including a swat that almost cleared the row of photographers sitting courtside. Williams who has struggled at times this season looked confident on Sunday.

"My teammates are confident in me. I just need to be confident in myself. I need to be aggressive the whole game and not just one half," Williams said after the game.

Blake Hoffarber ended his Gopher career at the Barn with a solid game that included 17 points, four assists and two rebounds.


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