Penn State guard Shep Garner felt his team didn’t live up to the standard expected on the defensive end Monday night.
The Nittany Lions preach defense and rebounding, but they didn’t get the job done in those areas in a 95-84 loss to Minnesota in overtime at the Bryce Jordan Center.
“We take that very seriously,” Garner said. “When we don’t defend at a high level, it’s tough for us to win.”
The Nittany Lions allowed the Golden Gophers to shoot 51.6 percent from the field in the first half — including 70 percent from beyond the arc — and they failed to contain Minnesota in the extra period. The Golden Gophers finished 6-for-8 from the field in overtime and knocked down three consecutive 3-pointers to break the game open. For the game, Minnesota shot 10-for-17 from 3-pointer range (58.8 percent) — a clip well above what Penn State had been allowing opponents to shoot all season.
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The Nittany Lions left Dupree McBrayer wide open in the corner for Minnesota’s first 3-pointer in overtime with 4:02 left. Jamir Harris then hit 3s on the Golden Gophers’ next two possessions to extend his team’s lead to nine points, burying the Nittany Lions.
“There were some missed assignments for sure, but I also thought they were hot,” Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said.
The Nittany Lions’ defensive issues started in the first half, when they failed to contain Minnesota guard Nate Mason. Mason went 4-for-5 from 3-point range and scored 14 points in the first 20 minutes to help the Golden Gophers’ take a 41-37 lead into the break. He continued to score early in the second half, driving down the middle of the lane, finishing floaters and tough jumpers as Minnesota built a double-digit lead.
But after the Golden Gophers’ took their largest lead of the night at 59-46 with 11:25 left on a pair of Mason free throws, the Nittany Lions did a better job limiting his looks. Penn State guard Jamari Wheeler denied Mason the ball and faceguarded him on the perimeter. Then Nittany Lions forward Nazeer Bostick took on the same assignment.
Mason went more than 10 minutes before he scored again when he hit one free throw with 1:09 left.
“I thought that was one of Naz’s best games,” Chambers said. “I thought he did exactly what we asked him to do. He went out and guarded the best player to the best of his abiity. He really disrupted their offense. But other guys stepped up for them and made plays.”
Chambers specifically mentioned Harris, who was making his first start and averaging 3.1 points per game.
The Minnesota guard had a night to remember, finishing with 16 points.
“Jamir is a worker,” Minnesota coach Richard Pitino said. “He’s serious about the game. He loves the game, lives in the gym. It does not matter if he doesn’t play a second or he plays 36 minutes, he is going to have a great attitude, and he’s going to work.
“And that’s what I love about him, and that’s why I gave him the start.”
Harris’ crucial 3-pointers in overtime put the game out of reach and put the finishing touches on Minnesota’s 10-for-17 night from beyond the arc.
“We’ll watch the mistakes, the rotations that were made,” Chambers said. “We’ll clean those up, but again there’s a foundation here that we have to stick with, and we can’t get deflated when other teams are going on runs.”