Gophers take first step toward NCAAs with Big Ten tourney win over Penn State

  • Article by: AMELIA RAYNO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 14, 2014 - 11:43 AM

The Gophers had to beat Penn State to keep their NCAA tourney dreams alive.

view larger photos


– Those two inspiring yet agonizing words never were spoken pregame, even if they bounced through every player’s brain.

NCAA tournament.

The Gophers knew they’d need a victory to keep their tournament hopes alive. It was a game they’d been playing in their heads for weeks, but one never more cut-and-dried than in the first round of the Big Ten tournament Thursday night, when a loss would have sent them home to wait.

“We didn’t really talk about it, but we definitely knew,” point guard DeAndre Mathieu said. “If we didn’t win this one, there was no chance of us getting to the NCAA tournament. We all watch ESPN, we watch the bottom line with the bracketology.”

The Gophers’ tournament résumé slightly improved with a 63-56 victory over 10th-seeded Penn State after allowing the Nittany Lions to charge back.

Andre Hollins finally stopped that charge by nailing a three-pointer with 15 seconds left to send the Gophers up 62-56 and all but cinch the victory.

“When he hit the shot, in my mind, that sealed the deal,” center Mo Walker said. “It takes a lot of guts to take a shot like that, but he made it.”

Penn State (15-17) shot only 32.2 percent from the field, and Minnesota (20-12) turned the ball over only nine times on the other end. Austin Hollins was once again a major factor, finishing with a game-high 18 points and adding two assists and two steals. In the past four games, the senior guard has compiled 75 points, rebounding from a sluggish start in Big Ten play.

The Gophers will play No. 2-seeded Wisconsin in the second round Friday. Minnesota split the two-game season series with its border rival, with each team winning its home game.

Andre Hollins said that second-round matchup added an extra layer to the first game: Beat Penn State and the Gophers would get another shot at the Badgers, ranked No. 12 in the country, and an opportunity for another quality victory to impress the NCAA selection committee.

For most of the game, Minnesota beat up on Penn State, despite the Gophers’ sloppy stretches and allowing their opponent to pull down 15 offensive rebounds. But the Nittany Lions plowed back from multiple double-digit deficits.

A 13-point Gophers lead at 51-38 with a little more than seven minutes on the clock disintegrated when John Johnson sank a three-pointer and then sandwiched a layup-and-one combination from D.J. Newbill with another three ball. The sequence instigated a 20-3 run to bring Penn State within 58-54 with 2:35 left.

“They made three three-point plays in a row,” Gophers coach Richard Pitino said. “That segment got to us a bit.”

The Nittany Lions pulled within three at 59-56 with 45 seconds remaining after Brandon Taylor knocked down a pair of free throws

Minnesota missed half of its final 14 free throws, but Hollins’ shot made good on the Gophers’ early dominance.

Going into the game, most bracketology analysts were in consensus that Minnesota was out of the current field. Thursday’s victory, combined with some convenient losses by other bubble teams — Arkansas, California and Utah — gives the Gophers an opportunity to slip back in. Still, many analysts believe Minnesota needs a victory vs. the Badgers to stay there.

“We’re trying to do something in Minnesota that’s never been done before, and that’s win a Big Ten championship,” Austin Hollins said. “We have one goal right now … if we do that, we won’t have to worry about anyone making a decision for us.”


  • related content

  • BOXSCORE: Gophers 63, Penn State 56

    Thursday March 13, 2014

  • For Gophers' last shot, 'Who else besides Dre?'

    Friday March 14, 2014

    Andre Hollins’ clutch three-pointer finished Penn State.

  • Postgame: Not stylish, but Gophers advance to 2nd round

    Thursday March 13, 2014

    It wasn't the prettiest win ever, but it got the job done. The Gophers face 2-seed Wisconsin at 5:30 p.m. Friday.

  • Gophers-Penn State game recap

    Thursday March 13, 2014

    GAME RECAPImpact playerAndre Hollins, GophersAfter sitting because of foul trouble for much of the game, the junior guard came up...

  • Minnesota guard Andre Hollins (1) battles for the possession of the ball against Penn State guards D.J. Newbill and Geno Thorpe (13) in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in the first round of the Big Ten Conference tournament, Thursday, March 13, 2014, in Indianapolis. Minnesota won 63-56. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

  • Minnesota guard Maverick Ahanmisi, left, collides with Penn State guard Geno Thorpe in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the first round of the Big Ten Conference tournament, Thursday, March 13, 2014, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato)

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions


New England 2/1/15 5:30 PM
Toronto 104 FINAL
Indiana 91
Cleveland 103 FINAL
Detroit 95
Milwaukee 109 FINAL
Miami 102
Memphis 109 FINAL
Dallas 90
Chicago 79 4th Qtr 10:34
Golden State 88
Washington 82 4th Qtr 9:00
LA Lakers 80
NY Rangers 1 FINAL
NY Islanders 4
Arizona 3 FINAL(SO)
Philadelphia 4
Winnipeg 3 FINAL
Pittsburgh 5
Washington 3 FINAL
Columbus 4
Tampa Bay 2 FINAL
Carolina 4
Dallas 2 FINAL
Montreal 3
Detroit 5 FINAL
Florida 4
Colorado 3 FINAL(OT)
Nashville 4
Buffalo 1 FINAL
Calgary 4
Minnesota 2 FINAL
Edmonton 1
Anaheim 3 3rd Prd 9:48
Vancouver 0
Ball State 47 FINAL
Akron 59
Northern Ill 46 FINAL
Bowling Green 56
Western Mich 71 FINAL
Buffalo 77
Ohio 40 FINAL
Eastern Mich 76
Xavier 66 FINAL
Georgetown 53
Vanderbilt 62 FINAL
Georgia 70
West Virginia 65 FINAL
Kansas State 59
Central Mich 53 FINAL
Kent State 63
Saint Josephs 48 FINAL
La Salle 53
Nebraska 44 FINAL
Michigan 58
Miami-Ohio 65 FINAL
Toledo 70
Tulsa 62 FINAL
Tulane 55
George Washington 48 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 72
Pittsburgh 67 FINAL
Virginia Tech 70
Indiana State 78 FINAL
Evansville 89
Tabor College 53 FINAL
Oral Roberts 94
Florida 52 FINAL
Alabama 50
Tennessee 64 FINAL
Arkansas 69
Texas A&M 71 FINAL
Auburn 61
Baylor 53 FINAL
Oklahoma State 64
DePaul 0 Postponed
Providence 0
Michigan State 0 Postponed
Rutgers 0
Wyoming 44 FINAL
Utah State 56
Fresno State 47 FINAL
San Diego St 58
Nevada 62
SD Christian 54 FINAL
CS-Bakersfield 79
Colorado State 50 2nd Half 15:12
Boise State 39
Temple 71 FINAL
UCF 54
Campbell 42 FINAL
Presbyterian 51
Coastal Carolina 65 FINAL
High Point 73
Gardner-Webb 49 FINAL
Radford 59
UNC-Asheville 58 FINAL
Liberty 62
Winthrop 63 FINAL
Longwood 62
Columbia International 33 FINAL
Charleston Southern 74
Tulane 63 FINAL
Houston 46
(3) Baylor 89 FINAL
TCU 67
Navy 49 FINAL
American Univ 59
Valparaiso 42 FINAL
Illinois-Chicago 60


question of the day

Poll: What chance does the Wild have of making the playoffs?

Weekly Question





Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters