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March 12, 2014
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - When the ball is tipped inside Bankers Life Fieldhouse at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, a new season begins for the Nittany Lion basketball team.
The 10th-seeded Nittany Lions (15-15, 6-12) will face off with seventh-seeded Minnesota (19-12, 8-10) in Thursday's third first-round matchup (ESPN2). The winner of the Penn State-Minnesota game lives to see another day and advances to meet second-seeded Wisconsin in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals. The team that does not advance heads home.
"We've got to go out. We've got to play hard," head coach Patrick Chambers said. "It's a neutral court. It's going to be a different environment with different baskets. I think we are becoming the best team that we can be."
The Nittany Lions are relishing in the opportunity they have in front them. After a rigorous 18-game Big Ten regular season, a clean slate levels the playing field for everyone.
"Now, it's kind of like gut-check time," junior guard D.J. Newbill said. "Every team will be playing with a sense of urgency. Anything can happen. There are always those upsets during postseason play. That's the best thing about it. Everybody is 0-0. There is no more, `this team is No. 1. This team is No. 12.' Everybody is even."
The Nittany Lions and Gophers will be seeing one another for the second time in five days. Minnesota used a 23-3 advantage in the first 8:08 of Sunday's game to score an 81-63 victory in Williams Arena. Despite falling into a 20-point hole in the first eight minutes, the Nittany Lions out-scored the Golden Gophers, 60-58, from there.
In the first meeting on Jan. 8, Penn State led Minnesota for 17:52 during the second half before falling, 68-65, in the Bryce Jordan Center. That being said, aside from the first 8:08 of Sunday's game, the Nittany Lions and Gophers have played evenly. Penn State knows there is no margin for error when the postseason begins.
"It's win or go home," senior guard Tim Frazier said. "You get to play on the big stage in Indianapolis with all of the Big Ten teams there. We have to go out there and compete."