Penn State basketball: After upset of Michigan, Nittany Lions now face strong Minnesota team

acarter@centredaily.comMarch 2, 2013 

— After an improbable upset of No. 4 Michigan Wednesday, Penn State heads to Minnesota today to take on a Golden Gophers team fresh off its own shocker against No. 1 Indiana.

In one night Penn State snapped a 14-game losing streak, celebrated with its fans after they consumed the court, garnered some national attention and even briefly trended worldwide on Twitter.

But even after all the emotion immediately following the win there was perspective.

"It was a great win," Jermaine Marshall said at the post-game press conference. "We’ll enjoy it today, but tomorrow unfortunately it’s over. We have to move on …"

The Big Ten Network will televise the 3 p.m. contest against the Gophers from Williams Arena, better known as "The Barn."

Penn State isn’t likely to sneak up on anyone for the rest of the season so Marshall’s perspective will be necessary.

Opposing coaches pay attention. For nearly a month the Lions have left locker rooms with losses, but Patrick Chambers and his players also left with respect.

"I’ve been seeing this coming with Pat Chambers’ team for the last month," Michigan coach John Beilein said after the game.

But pats on the back aren’t all they’re after.

"We’re not sitting here fat and happy," said Penn State head coach Patrick Chambers during his weekly teleconference Friday.

"We’re just trying to get better and that’s exactly what we’ll do today," Chambers continued. "We’re going to come out and practice hard today … nothing changes just because you got your first victory of the year."

Following the win, Chambers rested his starters on Thursday. Each logged at least 31 minutes against the Wolverines so instead of on-the-court work they stretched, soaked in cold tubs and watched plenty of film.

The rest of the team went through workouts and skill development.

Those support players will likely play a critical role as the Nittany Lions take the court less than three full days after an emotional win near the end of a grinding season.

It’s possible players like Kevin Montminy and Alan Wisniewski could see first-half action against the Gophers. Neither played against the Wolverines, but both contributed early in road games during February.

They could be called to spell Marshall, D.J. Newbill, Sasa Borovnjak and co.

Marshall started last month with an 8 for 37 shooting slump (21.6 percent) that spanned four games.

The redshirt junior, who scored a game-high 25 points against Michigan, roars into March averaging 19 points and shooting 46 percent from the 3-point line in his last four games.

Marshall and Newbill are now tied for fourth on the conference’s list of scoring leaders (16 per game).

Ross Travis has struggled from the perimeter all season, but remained one of the first players to shoot jumpers hours before nearly every game.

Against the Wolverines, the sophomore who will be making his debut in his home state, parlayed that work into a career night.

The Chaska, Minn. native tied a career-high with 15 points, set career-highs in assists and steals with four and sequestered 12 rebounds for his fourth double-double.

As a team, Penn State (9-18, 1-14 Big Ten) is scoring 71.5 points and shooting nearly 45 percent from the field and 43 percent from three during this four-game stretch.

Its 32 threes over the same span far outpaces the 41 the team hit through its first 11 conference games.

However, against Minnesota (19-9, 7-8 Big Ten) the Nittany Lions’ defense will play as big a role as ever.

The terrific guard tandem of Andre and Austin Hollins leads the Gophers. The pair of unrelated guards lead the team in scoring.

Andre is a 6-foot-1-sophomore guard averaging 13.6 points per game who also has a 41-point game under his svelte 200-pound frame from earlier this season.

Austin, a 6-foot-4-junior guard, averages 11 per game. They both bring precisely the brand of quick, athletic, slicing guard play that has given Penn State trouble.

"That’s been a challenge for us all year," Chambers said. "(Guards) that are extremely athletic we’ve struggled with."

Complicating matters will be the strength and size of Trevor Mbakwe. The 6-foot-8, 245-pound senior dominated the Hoosier’s starting frontcourt when Minnesota knocked of No. 1 Indiana 77-73.

Mbakwe scored 21 points on 8-of-10 shooting and grabbed 12 rebounds, while the combination of Christian Watford and Cody Zeller totaled just 17 points and nine rebounds.

Zeller – Indiana’s putative pre-season National Player of the Year candidate – scored nine points on 2-of-9 from the field and finished with seven rebounds.

If the Nittany Lions have a chance to win, they will also need to corral the ultra athletic, long-armed, 6-foot-7 Rodney Williams.

The senior ranged to the perimeter against the Hoosiers and soared to get a talon on a Victor Oladipo 3-pointer that could have changed the game.

"If they’re shooting the basketball well it’s going to be a tough day for us," Chambers said. "But we have to continue to play the way we’ve been playing. Great team defense,"

"It’s not Sasa against Mbakwe. It’s not their guards versus our guards. It’s a team game and we need to make sure that we play that way."

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