Minnesota’s four seniors wanted to end their career at Williams Arena with a victory.
The Gophers won convincingly on Saturday, 73-44, against the Penn State Nittany Lions. The quartet of Minnesota seniors finished with 37 combined points.
Trevor Mbakwe dictated the interior for head coach Tubby Smith as the senior finished with 13 rebounds to go along with his team-high 13 points. As a team, Smith’s unit outrebounded its the Nittany Lions, 41-20.
Minnesota and Penn State each notched a signature win in the middle of the week, but only the Gophers maintained its energy during Saturday’s clash.
Smith’s lineup was eager to hit Williams Arena once more after making memories on it on Tuesday. The Gophers (20-9, 8-8) shocked the nation by beating the number one team in the nation, the Indiana Hoosiers.
Even with the large loss, Penn State (9-19, 1-15) will still end the week with a smile. The Nittany Lions took down No. 4 Michigan at home on Wednesday, giving the team its first Big Ten win of the season.
Penn State came out of the locker room to a frigid start by missing its first 11 shots on Saturday. The team finally entered the scoring column with a D.J. Newbill jumper with 8:42 to go in the first half. Minnesota was up by 16 at that point.
Newbill finished with a game-high 15 points, but he made only two of his 16 shots. As a team, the Nittany Lions shot just over 27 percent.
Sophomore Ross Travis visited Williams Arena for the first time as a Nittany Lion on Saturday. The former Chaska standout finished with eight points in 39 minutes.
The blowout victory allowed the Minnesota seniors to go out in style. Each player exited the court individually as The Barn gave a rousing round of applause.
The first senior to exit the court was Mbakwe. The last senior was Williams.
The fans were treated to two final highlight dunks by Williams before he waltzed off the court for the final time.
The senior received an alley-oop from Welch with less than a minute to go in the first half, and Williams jammed it over two defenders with just his left hand. Williams finished the game with 10 points.
Each senior started and played 20 minutes or more on Saturday. Minnesota’s fourth and final senior, Andre Ingram ended up with four points.
It was the 13th Gophers win in its last 16 tries against Penn State.
Back-to-back wins gives Minnesota a .500 record in Big Ten play for the first time since its Valentine’s Day victory against Wisconsin. At 8-8, the Gophers have a chance to finish with more than nine conference wins for the first time under Smith.