Lions Close With a Win

Penn State grabs a share of fourth in the Big Ten with its first victory at Minnesota in a decade. Next up is a conference tourney game with Indiana.

Penn State closed the regular season with a 66-63 win at Minnesota Sunday, as senior guard Talor Battle padded his considerable legacy with a game-high 22 points, three assists and two rebounds.

With the victory, the Nittany Lions (16-13, 9-9) finished in a four-way tie for fourth place in the Big Ten. Due to tiebreakers, they will be the sixth seed in the conference tournament in Indianapolis this week and will face 11th-seeded Indiana in a first-round game Thursday night.

“I'm really, really proud of our kids,” PSU coach Ed DeChellis said. “It wasn't easy, it wasn't clean. There were a lot of crazy plays out there.”

Meanwhile, with the pair of rebounds, Battle became just the third player in NCAA history with 2,000 points, 600 rebounds and 500 assists. As usual, Battle was in the thick of things during crunch time.

State led by eight (52-44) when Battle made a 3-pointer with 11:12 left in the game. But then the Lions went into an offensive funk, giving up a 10-2 run to allow the Gophers to tie it at 54-54. Battle had a pair of airballs during the dry spell.

Minnesota took its first lead of the second half (57-56) when Blake Hoffarber converted a conventional 3-point play with 1:48 remaining.

But then Battle hit a fade-away 3-pointer from the left corner for a 59-57 lead.

“I had ultimate confidence in myself and believed,” Battle said. “(I) trusted my follow-through. It was a great shot.”

Hoffarber countered with a 15-footer to tie it, 59-59, before the Lions worked the ball around until finding senior forward Jeff Brooks at the top of the key. He hit a 3-pointer for a 62-59 lead with just under a minute showing.

The Lions were perfect on four free-throw attempts down the stretch to ice it. On the game, Penn State was 12 of 12 from the line.

“It just came down to us making plays,” Battle said. “They didn't lose the game, by any means. We took it.”

“Our kids fought through some adversity and made some shots,” DeChellis added. “Then we made our free throws.”

Brooks added 20 points and seven rebounds, but also played a role in allowing the Gophers to keep it close. He had five turnovers. Center Andrew Jones had four turnovers, meaning that duo combine for nine of State's 11 miscues.

Fortunately, the PSU guards were not nearly as ham-handed. Sophomore point Tim Frazier played a strong floor game with seven points, seven rebounds, six assists and no turnovers.

Hoffarber paced Minnesota with 17. Forward Trevor Mbakwe added 10 points and 14 rebounds.

Penn State won for only the second time at Williams Arena (against 16 losses) and captured its first road win vs. the Gophers since 2001.

Minnesota (17-13, 6-12) finished the regular season on a five-game losing streak. The Lions swept the season series, winning both games by the same score.

The other two men in the 2,000, 600, 500 club are Duke's Danny Ferry and Maryland's Grevis Vasquez.

Penn State and Indiana met only once during the regular-season. The Nittany Lions came away with a 69-60 victory at Assembly Hall in the Big Ten opener for both teams.

See the box score:

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