Penn State at Minnesota Preview: Lions Enter Brutal Stretch Needing a Win

By Craig Fritz on January 15, 2020 at 3:29 pm
Penn State travels to Minnesota in search of a win
© David Berding-USA TODAY Sports
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Minnesota Golden Gophers
9-7 (3-3 Big Ten)
ROSTER / SCHEDULE
9 p.m. ET – Wednesday, Jan. 15
Williams Arena
Minneapolis, MN
Watch Info: BTN | GAMETRACKER
KenPom Rank: 34
Read: Poor Shooting Dooms PSU against Wisc

Coming off of its first back-to-back losses of the season, Penn State heads out on the road looking to stop the bleeding. The challenge is not terribly easy, however, as Richard Pitino has his team playing solid basketball. The Gophers sit at 3-3 in the Big Ten, and are coming off of an impressive home victory against Michigan over the weekend.

Meanwhile, Pat Chambers' squad is entering perhaps the most crucial week of the season. After flying out to a 12-2 start, and the program's first AP Poll ranking in over two decades, the Nittany Lions enter this three-game stretch needing to right the ship quickly.

Projected Starters
Penn State Minnesota
G Jamari Wheeler - 6'1" - Jr. G Marcus Carr - 6'2" - RS So.
G Myles Dread - 6'4" - So. G Gabe Kalscheur - 6'4" - So.
G Myreon Jones - 6'3" - So. G Payton Willis - 6'4" - RS Jr.
F Lamar Stevens - 6'8" - Sr. F Alihan Demir - 6'9" - Sr.
F Mike Watkins - 6'9" - RS Sr. C Daniel Oturu - 6'10" - So.

Scouting report

Mike Watkins and the Penn State front court are going to have their hands full with Minnesota big man Daniel Oturu. The sophomore center averages 19.9 points and 11.9 rebounds per game. The former is second in the conference behind Iowa's Luka Garza, while the latter leads the league. Watkins will need to be on his game, or Oturu could have another 30-point performance like he did in Sunday's victory over the Wolverines.

In the backcourt, Gabe Kalscheur and Marcus Carr are the two names to keep an eye on. Kalscheur launches three-point attempts (121) and is third on the team in scoring (12.3 points per game). The Nittany Lions will want to get back to their smothering defensive ways and keep him from getting hot from deep. Carr will shoot from beyond the arc as well, but has made just 23 triples on the year. He still averages over 16 points per game, and is dishing out over seven assists each time out. 

Keys to the game

  • Shooting. Apologies for the simplicity of this all, but the biggest issue in each of the last two losses has quite simply been failing to put the ball through the basket. Yes, there have been ill-advised attempts, but by in large, Penn State is getting the looks it wants. Those shots just need to go in.
  • Start Fast. The Nittany Lions looked completely out of sorts to start Saturday's game vs. Wisconsin, and did not find the scoreboard until nearly midway through the opening half. They will need a much better start in this one.
  • Contain Oturu. Minnesota's 6-10 center is going to get his, he's too good not to. But Mike Watkins, John Harrar, and really, the entire Nittany Lion team will need to avoid letting him take over the game. Iowa big man Luka Garza did in the Palestra, but the Lions had the crowd, and their own hot shooting to counter it. They certainly won't have the crowd tonight, and the shooting woes have been discussed enough.

Prediction 

How quickly things can change. One week ago Penn State was among the top-20 programs in the country, with visions of NCAA Tournament seeding dancing through plenty of heads. Just eight days and two losses later, there is a very different vibe around the team. The Nittany Lions have the talent to play with anyone in the Big Ten, but have not put it all together in two straight defeats. 

This figures to be a much better performance than the last two, but it's hard to pick anyone to go on the road and win the way this Big Ten season has gone. Minnesota 70, Penn State 67

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