After racing out to a 19-point lead six minutes into the second half, Penn State was able to hold off a pesky Minnesota team for an 83-77 victory in front of a capacity crowd at the Bryce Jordan Center. Senior forward Lamar Stevens led the way with a career high 33 points.
The Nittany Lions would never trail, racing out to an 11-4 lead in the opening moments of the game behind Stevens, and junior forward John Harrar. For much of the first half, however, the story was a suffocating Penn State defense.
The Gophers were held to just 30% shooting in the first 20 minutes (9-of-30), including 0-of-7 from three. Just as impressive was Penn State's ability to control the glass, a problem in last month's lost to Minnesota. The Lions held a 21-16 rebound advantage, and held the visitors to just four second chance points. About all the Gophers had going for them in the first half was sophomore forward Daniel Oturu. He had 14 of his 32 points in the first half, which accounts for all but eight of the 22 points Minnesota scored in the first half.
It appeared Penn State was going to run away early in the second half, racing out to a 54-35 lead. Instead Minnesota was able to rally behind Oturu, and sophomore point guard Marcus Carr. The latter hit 3-of-6 from beyond the arc, and scored 18 of his 20 points in the final 20 minutes.
The Gophers would get to as close as 71-68 with 4:47 to play after a Gabe Kalscheuer triple, but Penn State countered with six straight courtesy of a Stevens and-1, and a Myles Dread three. There were a few nervy moments down the stretch, but the Lions did enough from the charity stripe, and on the defensive end, to secure their sixth straight win.
Penn State improves to 18-5 on the season, and 8-4 in the Big Ten. The latter moves the Nittany Lions into a tie with Illinois, and just one game behind Maryland in the conference race. They return to action on Tuesday evening in West Lafayette against Purdue (14-10, 7-6). Tipoff is set for 6:30 p.m. on BTN.