Minnesota’s late collapse is nearly complete.
With another chance to stop the bleeding against a Big Ten also-ran, the Gophers were routed by Penn State, 84-65, in University Park, Pa.
Playing without center Liam Robbins (ankle) and shooting guard Gabe Kalscheur (finger), Minnesota struggled to find good looks on offense and were hammered on the boards, 48-33, to finish 0-10 in Big Ten road games this season. They lost wing Brandon Johnson early; the senior was limited to nine total minutes by a nagging ankle injury.
With the loss, Minnesota’s road to an NCAA tournament has likely been narrowed to winning the conference tournament March 10-14 in Indianapolis.
The Gophers (13-13, 6-13 Big Ten) bring a six-game losing streak into their regular-season finale against Rutgers (13-10, 9-10) on Saturday at Williams Arena and have lost nine of the past 11 games.
The Nittany Lions (9-13, 6-13) had lost five of six games and were one of three teams below Minnesota in the Big Ten standings. Minnesota pulled within 11 points, 74-63, on a pair of free throws by Isaiah Ihnen with 3 minutes, 51 seconds remaining but had dug too big a hole.
Penn State used a 21-2 run that spanned the first and second halves to pull away, and led 60-36 with 13:54 left. After Ihnen’s free throws, the Lions scored the next seven points on a layup, 3-pointer and a dunk for an 81-63 lead.
Marcus Carr, who entered the game averaging a team-high 19.1 points and had scored 41 in the Gophers’ previous game, faced a steady diet of aggressive double-teams. He finished with a game-high 22 points but had to work hard for every point. Carr didn’t make his third field goal until there was 6:26 seconds left in the game. He finished 4 for 13 from the field and 13 of 15 from the free throw line.
Despite missing eight of their first nine shots to start the game, and getting outrebounded 17-6 in the first 10 minutes, the Gophers pulled within 18-17 on consecutive fastbreak baskets off turnovers by Tre Williams.
Down 21-20, the Gophers had a chance to take the lead but settled for a long, hurried and errant 3-point attempt and Penn State answered with a 10-2 run to go up 30-24.
Minnesota never got closer. Penn State closed the half with a 16-2 run that ended when Myles Dread picked Marcus Carr with two seconds left and drilled a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
The Nittany Lions (9-13, 6-13) made the first two baskets of the second half, including a 3-pointer by Myreon Jones, and opened a 24-point lead when Jamari Wheeler’s 3 opened a 54-30 lead for Penn State.
The Gophers were hoping to get Robbins, a 7-foot center, back for the game but he missed his third straight; junior Kalscheur, the Gophers’ leading 3-point shooter as a freshman and sophomore, has missed six straight.