Penn State Rally Falls Short

Golden Gophers beat Penn State 73-69, sending Ed DeChellis' squad to 1-14 in the Big Ten. But was it enough to help Minnesota secure an NCAA tournament bid?

Trying to play its way into the NCAA tournament, bubble-dwelling Minnesota did what it had to do Wednesday night at the Bryce Jordan Center.

But not much more.

The Penn State basketball team briefly threatened to bump the Golden Gophers into the NIT, rallying in the second half after falling behind by double digits before the break.

But even after scoring more points than in any Big Ten game this season, the Lions couldn't complete their comeback and fell, 73-69, in their final home appearance of the year.

“That was bubble-icious,” Minnesota coach Dan Monson said. “That’s a credit to this team. We didn’t play as well as we wanted. ... But it’s not about prettiness; it’s about the bottom line. This team has character, and it finds ways [to win].”

The Gophers improved to 20-9 and 10-6 in the Big Ten, while the Lions, who finish their regular season Saturday at Michigan State, slipped to 7-21 and 1-14. Asked if he thought his team’s credentials were tournament-worthy, Monson was glib. “That’s like asking me if I think my wife is pretty,” he said.

Guard Vincent Grier shined for the Gophers with a game-high 27 points.

Danny Morrissey had 22 points to lead Penn State. Geary Claxton added 12 points, while Aaron Johnson had 11 points and 15 rebounds.

The Lions whittled a 14-point halftime deficit to three with 5:22 left in the second half, thanks largely to Morrissey’s marksmanship. The freshman guard went 5 of 8 from 3-point range after the break.

“We battled, we gave it a shot,” Coach Ed DeChellis said. “We played hard in the second half and looked like a basketball team. ... We were one shot away or one defensive play away from really making it interesting.”

The Nittany Lions began to unravel midway through the first half. Trailing by two, 17-15, they had a chance to take their first lead of the game, but Claxton missed a 3-pointer and Minnesota responded with a 13-0 run.

The Nittany Lions struggled just to get into their offense as the Gophers unleashed a press that flustered Penn State’s backcourt and produced 15 first-half turnovers, including five by Claxton.

“We gave up 17 transition points in the first half,” DeChellis said. “You can’t do that.”

Minnesota led 40-26 at halftime, capitalizing not only on the turnovers but on a 29.6-percent shooting effort by Penn State.

The Lions rallied in the second half. A pair of Travis Parker free throws cut the Gophers’ lead to five, 57-52, with 8:19 to play. But Minnesota responded by firing the ball to Jeff Hagen under the basket for an uncontested dunk. Then Aaron Robinson stepped in front of a Morrissey pass and swooped in for a layup to give Minnesota a 61-52 lead.

The Lions fought back again, drawing within three, 61-58, on a running layup by Parker. But Minnesota never relinquished its lead, answering with layups by Grier and Dan Coleman.

It was the story of the night for Penn State. And, for that matter, the season.

“When we needed to make a play offensively or defensively, we couldn’t do it,” DeChellis said. “That’s been a problem for us. ... But our guys hung in there and made a run at it. They didn’t give up, and I’m not going to let them do that. We had a chance.”

Ed DeChellis Audio.

Mike Walker (speaks first) and Danny Morrissey Audio.

Game Stats.

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