Minnesota-Penn State BB Preview

The Gopher basketball team opens conference play against Penn State (6-5, 0-0 Big Ten) on the road at 7 tonight. The Gophers are (7-4, 0-0 Big Ten), but have lost two of their last three games. They are 0-3 on the road this year and were 2-6 in conference road games last season. Penn State enters conference play with a winning mark for the first time since the 2000-01 season.

The Penn State Nittany Lions come in with a 6-5 mark after Saturday's 58-46 win over Bucknell. Minnesota is 7-4 after an 82-70 come-from-behind win over

Wofford on Sunday.

 

Penn State's roster is a bit thin after the loss of two players who recently decided to transfer. DeForrest Riley-Smith was a two-year starter for Penn State and was coming

off an All-Tournament Team performance at the Lobo Invitational at the University of New Mexico this past Sunday and Monday. He was second on the team in scoring

with a 13.3 point per game average and led the team in assists with 51.

 

6-0 sophomore point guard Brandon Cameron started two of Penn State's five

games and was averaging close to 20 minutes per contest. He was averaging 3.2 points per game and 2.6 rebounds.

 

The loss of these two players forced the Nittany Lions to play just six players in the recent win over Bucknell. Due to this, Penn State relied on balanced scoring, few turnovers and tenacious defense to post a 58-46 win over Bucknell in its final non-conference game of the season.

 

Penn State had four players score in double figures, led by junior Jan Jagla's 17

points. Senior Ndu Egekeze posted his second double-double in three games with an 11-point, 10-rebound effort. Freshman Marlon Smith had 15 points while classmate Ben Luber added 11.

 

The Nittany Lions committed only 13 turnovers and for the first time all year Penn State had a positive turnover ratio in a game (Bucknell had 17). The Nittany Lions defense forced the Bison into a chilly .292 shooting mark in the second half and a .391 mark overall.

 

Penn State is being led by Jagla, who is fifth in the Big Ten in scoring at 16.9 points per game and third in rebounding at 8.7 rebounds per game. The 7-0 swing man is shooting .522 from the field and leads Penn State with a .444 three-point percentage (12 of 27). He also has 19 blocks, 14 assists and 12 steals. Jagla was recently named Big Ten Player of the Week for his efforts.

 

Smith is clicking for 9.7 points per game with a .731 free throw percentage while Egekeze is scoring 8.3 points per game and grabbing 5.1 rebounds per game. Fellow freshman Luber has a team-best 49 assists with a 7.1 points per game.

 

Penn State is shooting 42.6 percent from the field and leads the Big Ten with a 38.1 three-point percentage. The Nittany Lions are also tops in the conference in three-point defense, holding foes to only 28.1% percent shooting from beyond the arc. Penn State is out-rebounding its opponents by an average of 3.3 rebounds per game, but 185 turnovers and a .670 free throw percentage have hurt the Nittany Lions.

 

Freshman Kris Humphries leads the Big Ten in scoring at 23.7 points per game

and rebounding at 10.8 rebounds per game. He is shooting .508 from the field and has 19 blocks. Maurice Hargrow checks in at 13.5 points per game with 31 assists, while Ben Johnson is scoring 12.2 points per game and has 25 assists. As a team, Minnesota is shooting .446 from the field while its opponents are shooting .457.

 

Minnesota leads the all-time series 15-6 and has won five in a row in the series. The Nittany Lions last beat the Gophers on Feb. 14, 2001, in Minneapolis. Penn State's last win over UM in the BJC was a year earlier on Jan. 26, 2000. Minnesota won both of last year's meetings, 76-75 in the BJC on Jan. 29, and 77-62 on Feb. 22 in Williams Arena.

 

Possible Penn State Starters

(based on last game played)

G - Ben Luber, Fr. 6-0, 160 • 7.1 points per game, 1.7 rebounds per game

G - Marlon Smith, Fr. 6-0, 186 • 9.7 points per game, 2.9 rebounds per game

F - Ndu Egekeze, Sr. 6-6, 230 • 8.3 points per game, 5.1 rebounds per game

F - Rob Summers, So. 6-11, 232 • 3.8 points per game, 4.7 rebounds per game

F - Jan Jagla, Jr. 7-0, 231 • 16.9 points per game, 8.7 rebounds per game

Off the Bench

F - Kevin Fellows, Jr. 6-10, 244 • 1.1 points per game, 1.3 rebounds per game

F - Jason McDougald, Jr. 6-9, 200 • 1.8 points per game, 0.3 rebounds per game

F - Aaron Johnson, So. 6-9, 250 • 2.7 points per game, 3.2 rebounds per game

C - John Kelly, Fr. 6-11, 250 • DNP

G/F - Rob Fletcher, Sr  6-5, 210 • 0.0 points per game, 1.0 rebounds per game

G - Dan Adler, Fr. 6-1, 168 • DNP

 

The Gopher have struggled during the early part of the season and most teams struggle on the road in Big Ten play. However, if Minnesota is to get back into the NCAA Tournament picture, this is a game they have to win.

 

PREDICTION

MINNESOTA 68, PENN STATE 58


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