The Minnesota Golden Gophers caught the Penn State Nittany Lions in a shooting slump, but poor ball control prevented an upset bid, as No. 8 Penn State escaped with a 64-59 win Thursday night at Bryce Jordan Center.
The script for road games is becoming very familiar for Minnesota (13-7, 2-4), losers of three straight games. Enough talent exists to contend with top contenders in the Big Ten Conference, but not enough versatility is there to translate performances to victories.
The Gophers hit 45 percent of their field goals, besting the 35 percent mark posted by the Nittany Lions (16-2, 6-0), but 23 turnovers chilled their momentum.
Penn State's new-found stronghold of a conference dominated by Ohio State in recent years can be attributed to their opportunistic players. The Nittany Lions out-scored the Gophers 17-6 in second chance points and 13-6 in fast break points.
Junior guard Maggie Lucas led the way for Penn State, scoring 26 points, including a perfect 7-of-7 from the free throw line. Senior center Nikki Greene passed the 1,000-point milestone, becoming the 35th player in school history to do so, despite hitting only three of 11 shots. Greene finished with nine points and 13 rebounds.
Minnesota was paced by sophomore guard Rachel Banham, who continues to endure her own shooting woes. She scored 19 points, but made only six of 17 field goals. Junior forward Micaelle Riche had 12 points, but was not a factor in rebounds.
12 ties and 13 lead changes demonstrated how fierce the competition was between the Big Ten foes, with neither team leading by more than five.
Lucas' free throw sharpshooting was highly influential in the game's final minute, after a Riche layup cut Penn State's lead to 60-59 with 50 seconds to play.
Lucas drained a pair after drawing a foul on Sari Noga with 24 seconds to go. Minnesota aimed for a tie on their next possession, but Banham bricked her three-point attempt. Kionna Kellogg scooped an offensive rebound, only to lose the ball on a steal from Dara Taylor with five seconds to go. Lucas drew another foul and iced the game with another pair of free throws, allowing Penn State to sweep their first six conference games for the first time since 2005.
Minnesota has now last 14 of their last 16 road games since the 2011-12 season. They return home Monday, when they host Illinois.