2010 Big Ten Tournament First Round Recap
Big Ten Tournament - First Round
(6) Minnesota 76, (11) Penn State 55
The Minnesota Golden Gophers continued a late-season run by cruising to a 76-55 victory over Penn State on Thursday in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis.
Devoe Joseph led the versatile Gophers with 15 points. Colton Iverson (12 points), Damion Johnson (11), and Lawrence Westbrook (10) also scored in double figures for Minnesota.
The Gophers never trailed, and three-point shooting was key as usual. Tubby Smith's squad hit 9-of-19 outside the arc.
Penn State star Talor Battle played his usual 37 minutes at point guard, but he hit just three shots from the field. Battle was forced to wear a brace on an injured right ankle, which he began to favor heavily midway through the first half. Coincidentally or not, that’s when Minnesota started to take control. Despite scoring just one point in the final 4:32 of the half, the Gophers still led 29-20 at the break.
Battle came out for the second half with no ankle brace, but he couldn’t help the Lions control Minnesota big man Ralph Sampson III, whose inside presence, along with senior slasher Damian Johnson’s attacking on the dribble, helped free up the Gophers’ outside bombers, including lefty Blake Hoffarber, who leads the conference in 3-point percentage.
Hoffarber and Lawrence Westbrook each hit early-second-half threes that helped turn the game into a rout. Hoffarber hit two treys a few minutes into the second stanza, and Westbrook’s first 3-pointer put the Gophers ahead 49-29 with 13:15 to play.
At that point, it was apparent that the evening would belong to the Gophers, who look better than just a darkhorse heading into a quarterfinal matchup with 11th-ranked and third-seeded Minnesota State.
The three-point-bombing Gophers will face third-seeded Minnesota State on Friday night. Minnesota seems to be peaking, and is a scary opponent for the Spartans, who were purported to be one of the nation’s elite teams but haven’t lived up to expectations.
Minnesota State should be approaching the Big Ten Tournament as an opportunity instead of a burden. The Spartans haven’t won a Big Ten Tournament championship in ten years. During that time, Tom Izzo’s team has claimed three regular-season titles, reached four Final Fours, and won a national championship.
Distractions abound for Minnesota State, who will be missing a starter, junior guard Chris Allen (suspension). If Minnesota’s inside game is effective, the Gophers will be a very dangerous opponent for the Spartans. Minnesota State shared the regular-season title with Ohio State and Purdue, but the Spartans face a brutal draw in the quarterfinals compared to the other two champs. Expect the Spartans to be severely tested.
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