Minnesota vs. Penn State - Big Ten Opener
After a 9-3 record against non-conference teams to start the season, the Minnesota Golden Gophers will play host to the Penn State Nittany Lions on Dec. 29 at Williams Arena in the Big Ten opener for both teams. PSU, the reigning NIT Champions, won a school-record 27 games last season in pursuit of the title at Madison Square Garden.
Big Ten openers have not been kind to Gophers the last 10 seasons. Minnesota will head in to the tilt against Penn State with a 3-7 record in those games, including a 72-75 loss to PSU in the 2003-04 opener. The Gophers have opened with Michigan State the last two seasons.
The Nittany Lions (8-4) are coming off of a 19-point victory over American, 76-57 on Dec. 21. Minnesota is playing it's sixth-straight game at the friendly confines of Williams Arena and has established a five-game win streak. The Gophers extended the streak to five games with a win over South Dakota State on Dec. 23.
About the Golden Gophers:
- Golden Gopher Head Coach Tubby Smith's all-time record stands at 438-173 (18th Season) while his Minnesota record is 51-28 (Third Season)
- The Gophers enter the contest against the Nittany Lions having won five in a row by an average of 32.0 points per game.
- Blake Hoffarber has led Minnesota in scoring in each of the last five games. The last Gopher to do that was Vincent Grier, who led the 2004-05 Gophers in scoring for 11-straight games.
- Lawrence Westbrook leads Minnesota in scoring at 12.9 points per game. Ralph Sampson III is the Gophers' leading rebounder at 6.2 boards per game. Westbrook enters the contest 94 points away from 1,000 for his career.
- The Gophers went 8-0 this season at Williams Arena during the non-conference schedule. Under Smith, Minnesota is 25-0 in regular season non-conference games at the Barn. Dating back to the 2006-07 season under Jim Molinari, Minnesota has won 27 consecutive non-conference regular season home games.
- Minnesota has a combined record of 31-5 under Tubby Smith in regular-season non-conference games, including a perfect 12-0 record to start the 2008-09 season. The Gophers went 10-2 during the 2007-08 non-conference slate and finished 9-3 this season.
- Smith is 36-8 (.818) overall at Williams Arena during his two seasons at Minnesota.
- Minnesota is allowing just 59.4 points per game at Williams Arena under Smith (44 games). The Gophers allowed just 58.4 ppg at the Barn in 2008-09 in 19 games and 62.2 in 17 games during the 2007-08 season. Under Smith, opponents have only reached 70 points nine times in 44 games at the Barn (20% of the time).
About the Nittany Lions:
- Ed DeChellis is in his 7th season as the head coach at Penn State, his alma matter.
- Penn State went 27-11 in 2008-09 and defeated Baylor 69-63 to win the NIT Tournament title.
- Taylor Battle leads the team in scoring (18.8 ppg), rebounding (5.8 rpg) assists (3.5 apg) and minutes played (35.1 mpg). He was a member of the 2009 All-Big Ten First Team and is on both the Naismith and Wooden Award watch lists.
- The Nittany Lions are coming off of a 76-57 victory over American on Dec. 21.
- Minnesota is 16-4 against Penn State all-time.
- The two teams split the season series a season ago.
- Prior to last season's split, Minnesota had won eight straight games against the Nittany Lions.
- The Gophers haven't lost to Penn State at Williams Arena since Feb. 14 2001 ( 62-82).
- The Gophers are 430-265 (.619) all-time against Big Ten teams at home.
- Tubby Smith is 3-2 against PSU as a head coach.
Lighting up the Scoreboard: Minnesota has tallied 463 points over the last five games in wins over Brown, Morgan State, St. Joseph's, Northern Illinois and South Dakota State. The total is the most in a five-game stretch since 1992 when the Gophers racked up 473 points in five straight wins to open the season.
Also, Minnesota has amassed at least 91 points in four of the five games and is averaging 80.8 points this season, the highest scoring average in Tubby Smith's tenure (68.3 ppg in 2007-08 & 66.3 ppg in 2008-09).
Minnesota's nine victories have come by an average of 30.1 points this season. The largest of the group game came in a 41-point romp over Northern Illinois on Dec. 15.
Minnesota started the season with victories over Tennessee Tech (87-50), Stephen F. Austin (82-42) and Utah Valley (76-51) for an average margin of victory of 34 points. This is the largest average margin of victory in the team's first three games since the 1976-77 team won its first three games by a margin of 34.33.
On the other end of the spectrum, Minnesota has three losses this season that have come by a slim average margin of 3.67 points.
|2009-10 Gopher Victories || Score (differential) |
|11/12 - Tennessee Tech ||87-50 (+37) |
|11/16 - Stephen F. Austin ||82-42 (+40) |
|11/19 - Utah Valley ||76-51 (+25) |
|11/26 - Butler ||82-73 (+9) |
|12/05 - Brown ||91-55 (+36) |
|12/08 - Morgan State ||94-64 (+30) |
|12/12 - St. Joseph's ||97-74 (+23) |
|12/15 - Northern Illinois ||89-48 (+41) |
|12/23 - South Dakota State ||92-62 (+30) |
Sharp Shooter: Blake Hoffarber broke the school record for three-pointers in a game with eight in Minnesota's victory over Northern Illinois on Dec. 15. The previous mark of seven was held by Devoe Joseph (2009), Terrance Simmons (2001) and Lawrence McKenzie (2008).
Hoffarber has been on fire of late, hitting 22-of-36 treys over the last five games (.611). He has started and led the team in scoring in all five games and has averaged 18.6 points, 5.2 boards, 3.0 assists and 1.0 steal a game during that stretch.
He is the first Gopher player to lead the team in scoring in five straight games since Vincent Grier did so during the 2004-05 season. Hoffarber also posted his first career double-double in that five-game stretch with13 points and 10 rebounds Dec. 5 against Brown.