The final regular season game is finally upon us. The Nittany Lions will get one final chance to improve their Big Ten standing and NCAA tournament resume before the Big Ten tournament. The Lions currently sit one win away from a four way tie for fourth place in the conference with Illinois, Michigan and Michigan State. A win would put Penn State’s record at 9-9 in the Big Ten and 16-13 overall.
Today’s game has lost a lot of excitement from Nittany Nation after Ohio State’s beat down of the Lions last Tuesday. Penn State had a great opportunity to take down the Buckeyes at home on senior night and improve their chances of having a shot at an NCAA tournament bid. The loss has pretty much doomed Talor Battle’s chances at completing the one part of his career that he has wanted the most. Now today’s game is a must win and Penn State almost has to win the Big Ten tournament to even have a chance at an NCAA bid.
Here are the keys to today’s final regular season game.
1. Rebounding, Rebounding, Rebounding: When Penn State wins the battle on the glass they not only control the game, but usually win the game. The key player here is Andrew Jones. We have said it all season and today Jones will have to be huge on the glass. Penn State’s loss to Ohio State highlighted poor rebounding. Jones is key here. He needs to remain patient, box out and control the glass. Minnesota’s Trevor Mbakwe is averaging 10.4 rebounds per game. Penn State needs to isolate Mbakwe like they did against Jon Leuer.
2. Avoid Foul Trouble: Tim Frazier must avoid early foul trouble. He is absolutely the key to success offensively for the Lions. Defensively he is too fast for most guards to even cover him, but he allows for the rest of the team to set screens for Battle. Frazier really is not a threat to score, but when he drives down the lane defenses collapse on him leaving open Jones, Brooks or Jackson for easy buckets time and time again. Frazier must avoid foul trouble so Battle is not running point.
3. Defensive Breakdowns must be adjusted quickly: Against Ohio State, Penn State had no answer Diebler. Possession after Possession the Buckeyes drove right down Penn State’s throat or dished for a wide open three. MInnesota will do much of the same and if Penn State sees that their defense is not working they must adjust. DeChellis failed to adjust against Ohio State and that lead to an unfortunate loss at home. Defense has been a strong suit for the Lions and tonight they must push Minnesota into making decisions with under 10 seconds left on the shot clock.
4. Jeff Brooks: He is by far the most dominant player on the court. His ability to score, rebound, run, block and pass has really shined this season. Tonight he has to come up big. Brooks brings a spark to this team that no one else brings. If Brooks has a double double tonight with over 15 points Penn State should be in a great position to come away with a victory.
MInnesota has lost 8 of their last 9 games. They will be hungry to send their seniors out with a win today and stop the bleeding before the Big Ten tournament. I think Penn State will give its all, but unlike the Lions did vs Ohio State, the Gophers will be able to control their emotions and pull out a final win for their seniors.
Penn State – 70
Minnesota – 75