Hoop Preview — Minnesota

<B>Penn State vs. Minnesota <P>Bryce Jordan Center</B> <P><B>Game Time:</B> <B>8 p.m., Wednesday.</B>

Records: Penn State 7-20, 1-13; Minnesota 19-9, 9-6.

Coaches: Ed DeChellis is 16-39 in his second season at Penn State and 121-131 overall. Dan Monson is 98-84 in six seasons at Minnesota and 150-101 overall.

Series: The Gophers lead, 17-7.

Last meeting: Minnesota bashed the Lions 83-62 in Minneapolis Jan. 8.

Last time out: Penn State was crunched by Iowa (78-56) at the BJC Saturday. The Gophers beat Purdue (59-57) in West Lafayette the same day.

TV: ESPN-Plus via FSN Pittsburgh locally (Dick Bremer, Brian Allen).

Radio: Penn State Sports Network (Steve Jones, Dick Jerardi).

Next up: The Lions travel to Michigan State Saturday. The Gophers get a bye on the last weekend of the Big Ten season, and are off until the league tournament.

Probable Starters:

Penn State — G Ben Luber, 6-0 So. (5.7 ppg), G Danny Morrissey, 6-2 Fr. (7.1 ppg), F Geary Claxton, 6-5 Fr. (12.6 ppg), F Aaron Johnson, 6-8 Jr. (12.4 ppg), F Travis Parker, 6-5 Jr. (11.1 ppg).

Minnesota — G Vincent Grier, 6-6 Jr. (17.6 ppg), G Aaron Robinson, 5-10 Sr. (8.0 ppg), F Dan Coleman, 6-9 Fr. (8.6 ppg), F Brent Lawson, 6-4 Sr. (6.5 ppg), C Jeff Hagen, 7-0 Sr. (11.6 ppg).

Quick Quiz: When was Minnesota’s last 20-win season?

Penn State Notes:

• PSU has been outscored by an average margin of 18.5 points in its last four outings.

• The Lions have not made more than 46 percent of their shots in a game in the past 15 games.

• State’s active guards have combined to attempt 86 free throws this year. Joe Crispin alone attempted 165 in 2000-01 and 203 the season before that. Grier has tried 183 for the Gophers this year. Think the current Lions need a guard who can slash?

• The Nittany Lions have 61 blocked shots on the year, fewer than two individuals in the Big Ten. One is Iowa’s Erek Hansen. More on the other later.

• Stat watch: Penn State has 146 steals. Its average in that area (5.41 per game) is worst in the Big Ten.

Minnesota Notes:

• A victory gives the Golden Gophers 20 wins on the season and 10 in the Big Ten. But thanks to a relatively low RPI (47), Minnesota may have to win a game at the conference tournament to cement an NCAA bid.

• Grier is more than a scorer. The junior college transfer also leads the Big Ten in steals (2.07 per game) and is ninth in defensive rebounding (4.33 per game).

• A senior, Hagen has been an unsung hero for the Gophers. The big hoss is shooting 54 percent from the floor and is third on the team with 61 assists. He also has 70 blocks. PSU posts Johnson and Parker have 80 assists and 13 blocks between them, and both are under 45 percent from the floor.

• The Gophers are 0-5 when allowing opponents to shoot 50 percent or better from the floor. They are 19-4 when foes hit less than half their shots.

• Stat Watch: The Gophers have 256 steals this season, only 20 off the school record.

Quiz Answer: Technically, the Gophers have not won 20 in a season since the 1992-93 campaign. Minnesota actually had multiple 20-victory seasons since then, including NCAA tournament appearances in 1994, ’95, ’97 and ’99, but all of those records were wiped out due to NCAA infractions.

FOS Prediction: Minnesota 69, Penn State 55.

Comment: Gophers are playing for their NCAA lives. Nittany Lions are playing out the string.

FOS Prediction Record: 20-7.

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