For the rest of the 2011-12 Gopher basketball season, look for these "Observations from the Game" blog entries.
Joe Coleman led the Gophers with a career-high 23 points Sunday at Penn State.
Minnesota is doing its best to shake off a tough 0-4 start to conference play. For the first time since last January, the Golden Gophers have won consecutive Big Ten contests, putting their record at 2-4. After winning at No. 8 Indiana, Minnesota followed up that success with an 80-66 win at Penn State. The Gophers' last consecutive conference victories came in a string of four between Jan. 13 and 26, 2011: No. 8 Purdue, No. 25 Iowa, at No. 15 Michigan, and No. 16 Northwestern.
This is also the first time in three years that Minnesota has won consecutive road conference games. The Gophers won back-to-back road games against Iowa and No. 17 Wisconsin in January of 2009.
The Joe Coleman Show
In the three games since Tubby Smith inserted him into the starting lineup, Joe Coleman has shown that he belongs there. The freshman has done a good job driving to the basket to score or draw a foul. Coleman carried the Gophers with a career-high 23 points against Penn State, eclipsing the 14-point mark he set in his first career start against Purdue.
His points came in spurts today: Ralph Sampson III found Coleman on the baseline for easy two-pointers on consecutive trips down the floor in the first half. A little later in the half, he scored eight straight points for the Gophers. He added another eight-point streak extending from the end of the first half into the second half.
The free throw line has been important to Coleman's recent success. In today's game, he made an impressive 13-of-14 free throws, not missing until his final attempt of the game. That miss ended his streak of 17 that began during crunch time in the Indiana game. In his three starts so far, Coleman shot 23-for-25 from the line.
Sampson now has 191 career blocks.
Although foul trouble hampered Ralph Sampson III's productivity, he was still able to make a move in the Gopher record book. His five blocks today put him in a tie with Damian Johnson (2006-10) for third place on Minnesota's career blocks list. Johnson finished his career with 191 blocks. Kevin McHale (1977-80) holds the school record with 235.
Close Call? Not This Time
With a double-digit differential today, nail biters among the Gopher and Nittany Lion contingents may have been able to take a break from their habit. Recent games between the two teams have been much closer than this one. Penn State won each of last year's meetings by a score of 66-63. Prior to today's game, the last four meetings in University Park had been decided by no more than five points.