MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — D.J. Newbill pulled up and calmly swished a 3-pointer at the buzzer, giving him 31 points to lift Penn State to a 79-76 victory over Minnesota on Sunday.
The Big Ten’s leading scorer went 11 for 22 from the field, including 5 for 11 from 3-point range, to snap a six-game losing streak by the Nittany Lions (16-15, 4-14) with his dramatic finish. The senior guard also knocked down a one-handed floater from the lane with 22 seconds left to give Penn State a one-point lead.
Joey King, who scored 19 points on a career-high five 3-pointers for the Golden Gophers (17-14, 6-12), pump-faked Jordan Dickerson in the air to draw a foul and two free throws with 14 seconds remaining. He split the pair, setting Newbill and the Nittany Lions up for the final shot.
Mo Walker had a career-high 26 points plus 11 rebounds, but the Gophers took their eighth loss in conference play by six points or fewer, half of those by three or less.
Andre Hollins, one of five seniors playing his final home game for Minnesota, went scoreless in the second half after tallying 13 points before the break. The Gophers fell into the bottom four of the Big Ten, putting them in one of the two play-in games for the conference tournament.
Geno Thorpe scored 14 points for Penn State and Brandon Taylor added 12 points. The Nittany Lions became the sixth opponent in Minnesota’s last eight games to make 10 or more 3-pointers and shoot 40 percent or better from behind the arc.
Gophers coach Richard Pitino started four of his five seniors, including walk-on guard Kendal Shell and center Elliott Eliason, who fell out of the regular rotation after starting a total of 60 games over his first three seasons. Walker came off the bench but quickly established himself on the block, touching the ball almost every time he posted up.
Perhaps due to the noon tipoff time after the start of daylight savings time, facing an opponent buried near the bottom of the Big Ten, the Gophers didn’t bring much energy into the beginning of the game. Hollins had quite a burst, swishing 3-pointers on three straight possessions in the early minutes, but Penn State put together a 10-0 run over the middle of the half to pull away. The Nittany Lions made five 3-pointers over the final 5:13 before the break, two by Taylor, to push their lead to 43-34.
The advantage grew as big as 13 points shortly after the intermission, but King helped lift the crowd noise level with some timely 3-pointers accompanied by an arm pump to encourage the fans further. He drew a charging foul on Ross Travis a little later, too.
Hollins found Walker wide open for a slick high-low pass for a dunk and a 66-65 lead for the Gophers, their first since 27-24. The game was back and forth the rest of the way, and Walker missed one of two free throws with 50 seconds put kept Minnesota’s advantage at one instead of two.
The only time Penn State swept a season series with Minnesota before was 2010-11, when the Nittany Lions closed the conference schedule here with a 66-63 victory to drop the Gophers to 6-12 in Big Ten play. The Gophers finished 17-14 and didn’t even get invited to the NIT that year.
That 2011 win at Williams Arena was the only one by Penn State in the previous 11 visits.
Penn State: Travis had 8 points and 6 rebounds in his last game in his home state, playing a half-hour drive northwest of his high school in Chaska. The senior recently became the third-leading rebounder in program history.
Minnesota: Hollins needs only 54 more points to move past Willie Burton into second all-time on the program’s all-time scoring list behind leader Mychal Thompson. He needs 31 more points to pass Randy Breuer for third.
Penn State will be seeded 13th for the Big Ten tournament and play a first round game on Wednesday afternoon in Chicago against the No. 12 seed, either Nebraska or Minnesota. The Huskers had the last game on the conference’s regular season slate against Maryland, with a win giving them the No. 11 seed over the Gophers and a loss keeping them in 12th.
Minnesota will be seeded 11th or 12th and play a first round game on Wednesday afternoon, against either Rutgers or Penn State pending the outcome of the Maryland-Nebraska game.
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