Penn State had hoped to avoid playing on opening night of the 2022 Big Ten Tournament.
But after losing the last two games of the regular season, here the Nittany Lions are as the 11 seed taking on No. 14 Minnesota at 8:30 tonight in Indianapolis.
The Lions and Gophers played twice in the regular season, splitting both meetings. Minnesota got the best of Penn State in Minneapolis Feb. 12 but Penn State evened the score five days later with one of its best performances of the season ending in a 67-46 win.
The first year of the Ben Johnson-era got off to a hot start but after winning 10 of its first 11 games, Minnesota crashed the rest of the way and lost 15 of its last 18 games to finish last in the Big Ten.
Minnesota does have two quality scorers. Jameson Battle— who scored his 1,000th point in Happy Valley last month— leads the team with a 17.4 scoring average.
Payton Willis is another weapon Minnesota has offensively, averaging 16.1 points per game, and E.J. Stephens pitches in 10.6.
Penn State has had mixed results in past Big Ten tournaments, losing by one point to Wisconsin in last year’s second round and not getting to play in 2020’s tournament due to COVID-19. The last time the Nittany Lions made a deep run was in 2018, when Penn State got all the way to the semifinals before falling to Purdue.
Current Penn State seniors Myles Dread and John Harrar were with the Nittany Lions the last time Penn State and Minnesota met in the Big Ten Tournament. In 2019, the Gophers edged the Lions 77-72 in overtime. The winner of this year’s first-round matchup will move on to play No. 6 Ohio State tomorrow night.
Penn State comes into tonight as a 3.5-point favorite according to FanDuel. The game will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network with Brandon Gaudin and former Purdue Boilermaker Robbie Hummel on the call. The game can also be seen on FoxSports.com, and Penn State fans who can’t watch can listen to Steve Jones and Dick Jerardi on any of these affiliates.