Minnesota 81, Penn State 71: Lynch Dominant, Lions Not Sharp Enough

By Chad Markulics on February 25, 2017 at 6:00 pm
Feb 25, 2017; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Penn State guard Tony Carr (10) and Minnesota center Reggie Lynch (22) scramble for a loose ball in the second half at Williams Arena. Minnesota wins 81-71.
Bruce Kluckhohn/USA Today
  1st Half 2nd Half Final
Penn State 28 43 71
Minnesota 39 42 81

Despite another great game from Penn State's prized freshman Tony Carr, Minnesota continued to uphold their status as the Big Ten's hottest team with an 81-71 win over the Nittany Lions at Williams Arena. Reggie Lynch dominated affairs at The Barn, swatting 11 shots for the Gophers as they extended their winning streak to seven games.

Carr (20 points, seven assists, zero turnovers) got little help from his teammates for consistent stretches, dooming Penn State to their third-straight loss. Shep Garner needed 17 shots to break into double-figures. Lamar Stevens, who played with tape on his fingers on his shooting hand, was only slightly more efficient with 11 points on 15 shots.

The game did not come down to much else other than shooting, either, which will leave a bitter taste in the mouth of Pat Chambers. The Nittany Lions committed just five turnovers all game and stayed with Minnesota on the glass, but shot just 36.4 percent from two-point range. Lynch's presence obviously was the difference here.

It didn't help Penn State's cause that their own big man, Mike Watkins, picked up his second foul nine minutes into the game and Julian Moore tweaked his ankle shortly after Watkins was benched. It's worth repeating again, but Lynch dominated Minnesota's defensive paint – the Big Ten's leading shot blocker recorded six stuffs at the break, leading a defensive charge that held the Lions to under 25 percent shooting from two-point range at the break.

Nate Mason did the damage for the Gophers on the other end with four first-half threes. Were it not for timely three-point shooting of their own (5-for-11 in the first half), Penn State would have been completely out of the game by halftime. Instead, they left the floor with a glimmer of hope down 11.

An early-second half push led by Carr got Penn State within seven, but none of his teammates were able to match his level of play. Mason nearly recorded a triple-double by the final whistle, boosting his case for All-Big Ten honors. Dupree McBrayer and Jordan Murphy also had big games and big moments that kept The Barn engaged and Penn State at arms length. The Lions got within nine with less than a minute to play, but it was too little too late for a team that exerted a lot of energy to just get to that point.

The Nittany Lions (14-15, 6-10) fell below .500 with the loss, their first time spent below that mark since they were 2-3 after losing to Cincinnati in Connecticut. They'll have two more chances to match last season's conference win total of 7-11 with a home date against Ohio State on Tuesday and a trip to Iowa City in one week.