Lions Tumble at Minnesota

Penn State's season reached another frustrating low Saturday, as the Nittany Lions tumbled at Minnesota to stretch their losing streak to six games. In an outing where both teams entered riding five-game slides, the Golden Gophers, despite missing their best big man and starting point guard, prevailed, 65-60.

Penn State fell to 10-10 overall and 1-6 in the Big Ten, and after starting the season with hopes of an upper-tier conference finish now finds itself back in the familiar confines of the league basement.

“I don't have an answer,” PSU coach Ed DeChellis said on his postgame radio show when asked about his team's struggles.

“Everybody is frustrated about losing, it's real bad right now,” forward Geary Claxton added. “We just have to keep our heads up and keep playing.”

Minnesota (8-13, 2-5) was without starting point guard Limar Wilson (unspecified injury) and center Spencer Tollackson (hand injury), and came into the game averaging less than 50 points in Big Ten play. But the Nittany Lions, who offer the worst defense in the conference, were the perfect tonic.

The Gophers shot 47.9 percent from the floor and made 42 percent of their 3-pointers (a season-high 10 triples), and controlled the final 27 minutes of the game. Penn State led 29-21 with 7:24 to go in the first half but then went more than six minutes without making a field goal and trailed 35-33 at the break.

PSU was down by as many as eight early in the second half then rallied to draw within 51-50 with 10 minutes to go. But the Lions never could move into the lead, missing eight of their next nine shots and falling behind 58-53.

State did not get closer than four the rest of the way. Down 63-57 late, the Lions turned the ball over on two straight possessions.

Claxton and Jamelle Cornley led PSU with 20 and 14 points, respectively, but combined to make only 9 of 32 shots. Penn State made 7 of 9 shots to start the game and went 12 of 44 after that.

“We couldn't make a shot,” DeChellis said. “Everything was hard.”

Gopher Lawrence McKenzie became the latest guard to torch the Lions, scoring 19 points and making 5 of 10 3-pointers. Minnesota place four of five starters in doubles, including forward Jon Williams, who went 6 of 9 from the field for a season-high 13 points.

The Nittany Lions have a bye this week before facing Purdue at home next Saturday. After that, they play four of five games against league powers Wisconsin and Ohio State, so an already difficult Big Ten campaign only figures to get more challenging.


• Since returning from a foot injury in late December, Penn State point guard Ben Luber has made only 10 of 38 shots (26.3 percent).

• Starting center Brandon Hassell continues to struggle rebounding. The 6-foot-11, 230-pounder had one defensive rebound against Minnesota. He has 10 defensive rebounds in seven Big Ten games, which is fewer than guards Danny Morrissey (20) and David Jackson (13).

• To have a realistic shot of finishing with a winning record, Penn State must win five of its nine remaining regular-season games. That would put PSU at 15-14 going into the Big Ten tournament. But with four of those games against the Buckeyes and Badgers, and three more against teams that already handled PSU (Purdue, Iowa and at Indiana), finishing about .500 appears to be a stretch.

See Penn State's Season Box Scores Here.


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