How Big Was Penn State Win?

A win over a typical Big Ten cellar dweller may not mean that much to most teams, but it was a significant win for the Minnesota Gophers men's basketball team and could signal a more cohesive team.

They are still off the radar screen, but it's clear something very interesting is going on with Dan Monson's team.

The Gophers opened the Big Ten season with an 83-62 annihilation of Penn State. On the surface, a 21-point win over a perpetual Big Ten cellar dweller is nothing to shout about, but there are a couple of other factors to consider:

Last year, Minnesota lost nine straight Big Ten games before it recorded a conference win. Also, the victory over Penn State was Minnesota's ninth straight.

That's the longest winning streak in Monson's tenure at Minnesota. The Gophers are playing very aggressively — they outrebounded Penn State 42-33 — and appear to have developed some serious chemistry that they never had last season.

While the Gophers have 12 new players on the roster, it was holdover Jeff Hagen who led the way with 18 points and eight rebounds. Hagen was a sensational 8-of-8 from the floor and also did a good job of holding down Penn State big man Aaron Johnson.

Hagen wasn't looking for individual plaudits — he was more concerned about the way the Gophers are developing and how much better the team is this season than it was in 2003-04.

"Last year we went into the Big Ten saying, 'Yeah we can turn this around,' " Hagen told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. "To have that happen was very disheartening. This year we're confident, and it's nice to be able to back it up and say, 'Yeah, we are going to do very well this year.' "

Minnesota has dominated the series with Penn State since the Nittany Lions entered the Big Ten. Minnesota leads the series 18-7 and has won 13-of-14 at Williams Arena.

— The Gophers continue to be the top shooting team in the Big Ten, connecting on 51.4 percent of their shots from the field. They are also connecting on a Big Ten-best 42 percent of their shots from beyond the arc.

— If the Gophers really want to shock opponents around the conference, they have to do a better job handling the ball. They commit 16.6 turnovers per game — the most in the Big Ten.

PROBABLE LINEUP: Point guard Brent Lawson, shooting guard Aaron Robinson, center Jeff Hagen, power forward Dan Coleman, guard-forward Vincent Grier.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I don't care who you're playing or where you're playing in the Big Ten to get a lead like that. We had to be doing some things right." — Minnesota head coach Dan Monson on his team's effort and attitude in an 83-62 victory over Penn State on Jan. 8. The Gopher lead reached 29 points before Monson allowed his team to relax.

UPCOMING GAMES: vs. Purdue, Jan. 12; at Iowa, Jan. 15

KEYS: Minnesota continues to get the job done with its sensational outside shooting. That should get the job done at home against the struggling Boilermakers. However, the Gophers have to be ready for a huge effort from Iowa, which lost its first two Big Ten games and have a week off to prepare for the Gophers.

ROSTER REPORT: Guard-forward Vincent Grier scored 13 points in the Jan. 8 win over Penn State and is averaging 17.5 ppg — a figure that ranks fourth in the Big Ten.

— Guard Aaron Robinson is doing a nice job as a ballhandler. He is averaging a team-high 3.0 assists per game.

— Center Jeff Hagen scored 18 points against Penn State and made 8-of-8 shots from the field. Hagen is averaging 12.1 ppg and shooting 60 percent from the field.

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