Battle Shoots Down Gophers

Senior comes through again as the Nittany Lions survive at the Jordan Center. Penn State levels out at 7-7 in the Big Ten.

Penn State blew a 10-point second half lead against Minnesota at the Jordan Center Thursday night. The Nittany Lions were outrebounded by a dozen, allowed Golden Gopher powerhouse Trevor Mbakwe to build a double-double in the first half and then saw their opponent make 6 of 10 3-pointers in the final period.

Yet Penn State ultimately came out on top, using more late-game heroics by senior guard Talor Battle to grab another must-win win, 66-63.

“This is a league where you come down to the last couple of minutes of the game and it's usually the team who makes the plays (that wins),” said Lion coach Ed DeChellis, whose squad improved to 14-11 overall and 7-7 in the Big Ten. “We made some plays tonight. I'm proud of our kids.”

With its second straight victory, PSU climbed to fifth in the Big Ten standings. Minnesota fell to 17-8 and 6-8.

As usual, Battle was in the thick of things for the Lions when the going got tough, scoring a game-high 28 points to become the first Penn State player ever to top 500 in a season three times.

After watching a 47-37 lead disappear, the Lions trailed 60-57 with two minutes left. It seemed eerily similar to a 65-62 come-from-ahead loss to Michigan at the BJC Feb. 6. But Battle was undeterred.

“That Michigan thought didn't go through my head,” he said.

Center Andrew Jones' tip-in with 1:42 left cut the lead 60-59 before Gopher sharpshooter Blake Hoffarber missed a 3-pointer. Lion guard Tim Frazier rebounded and kicked ahead to forward Jeff Brooks.

Brooks whipped the ball back to Battle, who swished a 3-pointer for a 62-60 lead with 1:12 showing. Battle was 7 of 14 from the arc in the game.

“He's a great player,” DeChellis said. “I hope everybody appreciates what they see out there, because he's one of the best who's ever played at Penn State.”

Added Minnesota's Tubby Smith, “Talor Battle is an outstanding player. We lost him in transition and he knocked down that three.”

The game was far from over, though. In fact, the real fun was just beginning. Because this is when the latest round of scoreboard insanity hit the BJC. The board showed several scores -- none of them correct -- before the Gophers spent a 30-second timeout with 51 seconds left. The score was corrected during break.

Fourteen seconds later, guard Austin Hollings was called for traveling, which he appeared to do even though Smith would later lament, “You don't see a travel like that called. You don't.”

Battle made the front end of a one and one with 22.1 remaining to push the lead to 63-60. Between shots, DeChellis signaled for Jones to get off the lane. Jones moved as the official was handing the ball to Battle, and the referee called a lane violation.

It became irrelevant when Hoffarber threw a pass that 6-foot-11 forward Ralph Sampson could not handle on the wing and it went out of bounds. Minnesota fouled Cammeron Woodyard, who despite just entering the game made a pair to stretch the lead to 65-60 with 13.2 to go.

It should have been over. But Hoffarber hit a bomb with seven seconds left to make it 65-63 and the Gophers called timeout at the 5.9-second mark. Battle was fouled before the ball could be inbounded, yet .2 seconds went off the scoreboard.

Awarded two shots (PSU was in the double bonus), Battle could only wait as the refs fixed the timing issue. It may have been the first time a star player was iced by the home timekeeper.

Battle missed the first and made the second, extending the lead to 66-63.

Rather than foul, PSU allowed Minnesota to push the ball quickly up the floor before Hoffarber's desperation triple attempt at the buzzer missed. DeChellis would later say he didn't foul because he was worried the Gophers could use their superior size to score off a missed free throw.

But after dominating the paint in the first half as Jones and Brooks were limited by foul trouble, Minnesota's starting front wall of 6-11 (Sampson), 6-10 (Colton Iverson) and 6-8 (Mbakwe) was neutralized in the second half. PSU allowed only two offensive rebounds in the final 20 minutes.

And after being burned by 3-pointers for much of the second half, the Lions finally clamped down there when it mattered, too.

It wasn't pretty. It was a victory.

“We didn't win these games last year,” said Jackson, who shook off a poor shooting start to finish with 13 points. “I think we're a lot more mature this year. I think we're playing with more of a sense of urgency.”

SHORT SHOTS

• Jones and Brooks were limited to a combined 45 minutes and 10 points.

• PSU got good work off its bench late in the first half when the duo was out. Walk-on forward Steve Kirkpatrick even played with energy, scoring his first career bucket and dishing out an assist.

• Frazier finished with eight points and a career-high eight assists.

• The Lions reached a season-high with 31 3-point attempts. Minnesota played zone the entire game with the big men clogging the lane.

• Hoffarber led the Gophers with 18 points, while Mbakwe ended up with 16 points and 12 boards.

• Penn State is at Wisconsin Sunday. The game tips at 6 p.m. and can be seen on the Big Ten Network.


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