The Takeaway–Penn State–Minnesota
**I’ll be back to regular posts, this week was just really busy**
Well, that is about the only thing that hasn’t happened yet. After spending most of the game in a 6-8 point hole, the Lions battled back to tie the game with 9 seconds left, only to have Lawrence Westbrook nail a 18 foot fade-away with a hand in his face at the buzzer to secure the Gophers a 66-64 victory. This game really was the high point in how much things haven’t gone the Lions way this year, lay-ups not falling, bounces not going their way, we’ve seen it all. It was only a matter of time before they were beat at the buzzer.
Overall there is no denying the effort that the Lions put in today. David Jackson(18 pt), Chris Babb(12 pt), and Talor Battle(20 pt) all scored in double figures which helped balance out the Lion’s offense that dished out 13 assists. The ball movement at times was outstanding and even created oohs and ahhs from the rather rowdy crowd of 10,000 that came out to try to do their part.
It really did look this good at times. For real, it was something else.
The real issues the Lions had today came from the lack of consistent inside play. That has really been the problem all season as neither Andrew Ott or Andrew Jones have been able to produce anything consistently on the inside offensively or defensively. Ott generally does a little better defensively but got called for 4 fouls in 14 minutes of work so he never really got going.
Despite only scoring 3 points Jeff Brooks did a good job staying in the game plan while grabbing 5 boards and 3 assists. His ability to work within the offense even on an off night shooting gave the Lions a dependable defender and ball handler especially in press defense that Minnesota runs. For the most part, Penn State had little trouble breaking the press which was a big part of their ability to hang with the Gophers. A good part of the time Talor was not the primary ball handler up the court which allowed guys like Tim Frazier and Chris Babb to handle the ball which allowed Talor to work off-ball.
If there is one thing to take away from the game it was Penn State finally coming back from being down in a game and not collapsing at the very end. Sure they lost, but the shot was well defended and a fade-away turn-around jumper. You couldn’t have asked the Lions to have defended really any better than they did on the last possession. Sometimes you just catch a bad break, in Penn State’s case, they’ve caught a lot of them.
One thing I really enjoyed about this game was the higher of mental smarts the team showed. In a critical stage of the game Penn State was able to force a jump ball and get the ball back on what would turn into the Lion’s final possession and game tying bucket by Talor Battle. As I mentioned before the ball movement at times was exceptional and really have the Gohpers on their heals. Ed also used timeouts in a much better fashion, moving a little bit away from his stance of believing in his players to get the job done. Although that was still important, his ability to control some of the tempo of the last 5 minutes of so really helped the Lions get back into the game.
When you lose by 2 points you can point to almost anything and find a way you could have picked up a few points. Overall the Lions played one of the most complete games of the Big Ten season and have shown heart and courage in the face of an ugly season. While we might not like the results, it is hard to not have respect for a team that is going out and trying to win like it’s their first Big Ten game. Sooner or later it is going to fall into place.