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Dec. 29, 2009
MINNEAPOLIS, MINN., Dec. 29, 2009 - The Nittany Lion basketball team (8-5) fought a valiant battle but couldn't overcome 16 turnovers on 11 Minnesota steals and a red-hot Lawrence Westbrook whose 29 points led the Golden Gophers (10-3) to a 75-70 victory in the Big Ten opener for both teams.
Talor Battle (Albany, N.Y.) led Penn State with 23 points on 5-of-8 shooting from three and added six rebounds and four assists. Battle played all 40 minutes and moved into 16th all-time on Penn State's all-time scoring list with 1,200 points passing Ron Brown (1,184; 1972-74). He also moved into 10th on the all-time assist list with 334 passing Tony Ward (331; 1985-88). Andrew Jones (Philadelphia, Pa.) contributed 12 points and eight boards and David Jackson (Farrell, Pa.) had 11 points for the Lions who had a string of three-straight Big Ten opening victories snapped.
Westbrook hit four huge second half threes for the Gophers on his way to 18 second half points and his career high of 29. Blake Hoffarber hit 3-of-7 from three to chip in 11 points for Minnesota, which shot 49 percent from the floor. Penn State hit 48 percent for the game and a strong 61 percent in the second half as the Lions came from seven down at the half to take as much as a five-point lead.
The Lions won the rebounding battle 33-28 and hit 9-of-18 from three, but couldn't handle Minnesota's full court pressure in committing 16 turnovers. The Lions fell for the 16th time in 17 trips to Minneapolis.
Trailing 34-27 at the half, Penn State came out firing and used a 15-3 run to take a 42-37 lead in front of a rarely silenced William's Arena crowd. Four straight points from Battle, who got the last two on free throws after being fouled on a three, tied the game at 37. Jones got his second bucket in the run to give the Lions the lead and Jeff Brooks followed with a baseline three for a 42-37 edge with 14:44 to play.
The Gophers used a pair of threes from Hoffarber and one from Westbrook to tie the game at 48. A Tim Frazier pull-up jumper in transition regained the lead for Penn State. After Al Nolen hit a pair of free throws to tie it again, Battle drained a 25-foot three-pointer to stun the arena crowd and give the Lions a 53-50 lead with 9:37 left.
The Lions then turned the ball over on three straight possessions and after a scramble at mid-court another Penn State turnover led to Westbrook burying a baseline three for a 56-53 Gopher lead that brought the crowd to a roar.
Jackson answered with a three of his own on a nice assist from Jeff Brooks. Westbrook hit again on the other end. Penn State broke the Gopher press and hit Jones ahead of the pack, but his dunk attempt rattled off the back iron and Ralph Sampson got a put-back on the other end to build a 60-56 lead for Minnesota.
Westbrook and Battle then went head-to-head. Westbrook hit a three. Battle answered. Westbrook hit again from deep and Minnesota led 66-61 with 4:22 to play.
Jackson hit a free throw to cut the lead to four, but Damian Johnson got back-to-back lay-ups to extend the lead to 70-62 with 1:22 to play. Battle hit a pair of free throws to draw within six, but Hoffarber hit a pair at the line. Chris Babb drained a three to cut the lead to 72-67 with 33 seconds to play and the Lions later got within four, 74-70, on a Frazier three with 14 seconds remaining, but they would get no closer as Nolen hit a pair at the line for the final margin.
Battle's 11 points and three three-pointers while playing all 20 minutes helped keep Penn State close in the first half despite shooting 35 percent from the floor and committing seven turnovers. Westbrook led the Gophers will 11 points of his own as Minnesota shot 48 percent and harassed Penn State with full court pressure getting five first half steals which it converted to seven points.
The Nittany Lions showed resilience in surviving a 16-3 Golden Gopher run in the first half that put them down 11, 21-10, midway through the half and teetering.
After and early 5-0 Penn State run gave the Nittany Lions a 7-5 lead following a David Jackson lay-up, the Gophers went on their spurt started by a Justin Cobbs basket and Paul Carter three. Penn State stemmed the tide when Chris Babb was fouled on a three-point attempt by Damian Johnson and drained all three at the line.
Talor Battle followed with his third three of the half for a 6-0 Penn State run that pulled the Lions back from the brink and within five, 21-16. Minnesota answered with a 5-0 run of its own to lead by 10 again on a three by Blake Hoffarber that got the Barn roaring.
Still unwavering, Penn State got a steal and lay-up from Battle and Tim Frazier fed Jackson for a three-point play that pulled Penn State back within five, 30-25, with 3:24 to play. The Lions had a chance to cut the lead further, but couldn't get a shot off and suffered a shot clock violation. A nice high low feed from Jackson to Andrew Jones for a bucket eventually got Penn State to within three, 30-27, with 1:12 to play, but Minnesota scored the final four point of the half, the last on a driving lay-up from Westbrook, to take a seven-point lead to the locker room.
Penn State will return to the Bryce Jordan Center for the first time in two weeks when they take on Wisconsin on Sunday, Jan. 3 in a 2:00 p.m. tip on the Big Ten Network.