STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) — When games go down to the wire, Penn State wants the ball in Talor Battle’s hands.
So it’s no surprise who took the shot with the Nittany Lions down a point with 1:12 left against Minnesota on Thursday night.
Jeff Brooks found Battle open on the perimeter, and the star guard hit a 3-pointer to highlight a late 8-0 run that propelled Penn State to a 66-63 victory over the Gophers.
“I get excited for those shots,” Battle said. “I think the guys want me to take that shot, the coach wants me to take that shot and I want to take that shot. I was open today … I shot it with confidence and knocked it down.”
Battle led Penn State with 28 points and David Jackson added 13 points and five rebounds for the Nittany Lions (14-11, 7-7), who kept their NCAA tournament hopes alive.
Blake Hoffarber led the Gophers with 18 points and Trevor Mbakwe added a double-double with 16 points and 12 rebounds.
Penn State led most of the game, and Jackson’s 3 with just more than 11 minutes left gave them a 10-point lead.
But Minnesota (17-9, 6-8) slowly chipped away at the deficit, then went up 60-57 on Colton Iverson’s dunk with 2:09 left.
The Nittany Lions answered with the 8-0 run, including Battle’s deep 3 with 1:12 left. They were aided by back-to-back turnovers by the sloppy Gophers.
“He’s really just a complete player, he does a lot of different things for them,” Minnesota coach Tubby Smith said about Battle, who played all 40 minutes. “He’s just an iron man.”
Battle, who was fouled by Hoffarber with less than 30 seconds to play, made his first foul shot before the referees called a lane violation on Andrew Jones to give the ball back to Minnesota.
The call gave Penn State just a 63-60 lead, giving the Gophers a chance to tie, but Hoffarber threw the ball away on the ensuing possession with 14 seconds left.
Minnesota had a final chance to send the game into overtime, but Hoffarber missed a 3 as time expired. All six of the sharp-shooting guard’s field goals were from long range.
“We just made a play, sometimes it comes down to making a big basketball play,” Penn State coach Ed DeChellis said. “This is a league where you come down to the last couple minutes of the game and it comes down to the team who makes the play. I’m proud of them, that’s the grit and determination that we have to play with.”
Minnesota struggled offensively early, but shot 56 percent in the second half to stay close. The taller, bigger Gophers played to their strength by being aggressive on the boards, outrebounding Penn State 34-22, including 25-15 on the defensive glass.
But sloppy ball-handling and 13 turnovers hurt Minnesota. After Battle’s 3 gave Penn State a 62-60 lead with 1:12 left, Austin Hollins was called for traveling in the backcourt with 37 seconds left leading to a free throw by Battle.
“We made some mistakes there with turnovers. I guess we walked — that’s what was called. I thought we took a charge at the other end and we didn’t get that call,” Smith said. “It’s tough — you’ve got to make plays, you’ve got to make things happen.”
The Nittany Lions scored 17 points off turnovers, while giving the ball up just five times. Battle finished 7 of 14 from 3-point range.
WCCO’s Interview With Tubby Smith
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