No. 22 Penn State vs. Minnesota Preview: Red-Hot Lions Looking for Revenge

By Craig Fritz on February 7, 2020 at 3:01 pm
Minnesota Basketball
© Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports
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Minnesota Golden Gophers
12-10 (6-6 Big Ten)
Roster / Schedule
4:00 p.m. ET - Saturday, February 8
Bryce Jordan Center
University Park, PA
Watch Info: BTN I Gametracker
KenPom Rank: 32

A lot has changed for Penn State since January's meeting with the Golden Gophers in Minneapolis. Since losing to Minnesota in mid-January, the team's third loss in a row at the time, all the Nittany Lions have done is win five straight. The streak has included road victories in Ann Arbor, Lincoln and East Lansing, and a pair of big wins in the Jordan Center over Ohio State and Indiana.

Meanwhile, Richard Pitino's squad has gone 2-3 in the five games since its 75-69 win over the Lions. 

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

It was the Daniel Oturu and Marcus Carr show for Minnesota last month. The former, who averages a double-double, put up 26 points and grabbed 14 rebounds. The latter was good for 27 points, including 3-of-7 from three. The Lions did a solid job with Gabe Kalscheur in the loss, limiting him to just six points, and 0-for-7 from three.

The Gophers still rely heavily on their five starters, going just seven or maybe eight deep. If Penn State can stay out of foul trouble, an issue the first time around, that should allow depth to become a factor.

keys to the game

Rebound. Perhaps the biggest key to the Lions' current five-game winning streak has been improved rebounding. Mike Watkins in particular has been a force on the glass recently. Oturu is going to get his, but Penn State cannot let him take over.

Shooting. Penn State is not a great shooting three-point team, but when things are going right, it is hitting open shots. In January, the Nittany Lions were just 6-of-20. Conversely, they hit 9-of-21 in East Lansing on Tuesday. 

Control Emotions. Pat Chambers was already talking about this on Tuesday night, but this is uncharted territory for his program. Earlier in the day on Saturday, Penn State is likely to be among the NCAA Selection Committee's top-16 teams, and the matchup with the Gophers figures to be a sellout. The crowd will undoubtedly be an advantage to the Lions, but playing within themselves will be big.

prediction

It is not a huge stretch to say this is the biggest Penn State home basketball game in years. The Jordan Center is going to be packed, the home team is riding a five-game winning streak, and the first tournament berth in a decade is in reach. Given the way Chambers' team has been playing, it's not hard to see them running away with this one. If they can keep Oturu off the glass, and maintain the high level of defense they have achieved practically all season, I like the Lions to win big. Penn State 81, Minnesota 68

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