Even though it’s only been five days since Penn State last played Minnesota, a lot has changed for the Nittany Lions in that time.
After Saturday night’s loss to the Gophers in Minneapolis, the Nittany Lions had lost six of their past seven games, and things looked bleak for coach Micah Shrewsberry’s team.
Three nights later, the Nittany Lions upset No. 19 Michigan State at home for their first win over a ranked team in the Shrewsberry era.
Penn State has a little momentum now, and with the next four games all against teams with a combined record of 12-44 in the Big Ten, the Nittany Lions have a chance to string a few wins together as February starts to wind down.
Before the Nittany Lions can think ahead, however, they’ll have to do something they couldn’t do this past Saturday and beat Minnesota.
The Gophers are 3-11 in the Big Ten, but scrapped to get a 76-70 win over the Nittany Lions in the first meeting. In that game, Eric Curry led the Gophers with 22 points, and Payton Willis— who is second on the team in scoring, averaging 16 points— added 18.
Leading the Gophers in scoring average is 6-foot-7 forward Jamison Battle. Penn State did a good job containing Battle Saturday night, holding him to eight points and four rebounds in 36 minutes.
Along with Battle and Willis, E.J. Stephens also averages in double figures at 10.5 points per game. He had 13 in the first meeting with Penn State.
This game was initially scheduled for Jan. 19, but had to be postponed due to COVID-19 issues in Minnesota’s program. For both teams, it will be the second game they’ve played in less than 48 hours, with the rare 4 p.m. weekday start time.
The Nittany Lions at least have the benefit of playing at home both Tuesday and Thursday. The Gophers won’t have that luxury. They had to play Ohio State in Columbus Tuesday night, and lost, 70-45. The game at Penn State will be Minnesota’s second game far away from Minneapolis, with only one day of rest in between.
This isn’t ideal for a team that’s struggling as it is. The Gophers only the two wins since 2022 began, albeit with one of them being over Penn State. Minnesota is 2-10 since Dec. 22, and that’s probably a big reason the Nittany Lions are six-point favorites according to FanDuel.
Jeff Levering and Raphael Davis will have the call on the Big Ten Network, and the game can also be seen on the FoxSports.com.
Penn State fans who can’t tune in can listen to Steve Jones and Dick Jerardi on any of these affiliates.