The Penn State basketball team is inexperienced, has dropped its first two Big Ten games and is playing without its most important player.
If Minnesota wasn’t suffering from the same maladies, the Lions would be the perfect antidote for the slumping Gophers.
Instead, Penn State has a good chance of breaking its four-game losing streak against Minnesota on Saturday in State College, Pa., because the Gophers are in just as much trouble.
But while the Lions have to endure the rest of the season without point guard Dan Earl, who tore his ACL in early December, the Gophers got some good news regarding their injured leading scorer, Sam Jacobson.
Although Jacobson is doubtful for Saturday’s game, an MRI examination on Tuesday evening revealed no disc herniations or spinal problems in his sprained back, which kept him out of Wednesday night’s 66-59 loss to Northwestern.
The University basketball office and University Orthopedic Surgery Department announced the results through a statement Thursday afternoon. Jacobson’s status is listed as hopeful for Wednesday’s home against Michigan State.
“Sam is suffering from an acute back sprain,” said Dr. James Ogilvie, who is a professor of orthopedic surgery and a spine specialist. “The MRI indicated no herniated discs or spinal problems and reaffirmed that the injury is an acute back sprain. Sam has made improvements in range of motion and there is less pain, but he is still doubtful for the Penn State game.”
Until Jacobson gets back, Minnesota’s chances to win, especially on the road, might also be doubtful. It proved that Wednesday night in its lackluster performance against Northwestern. Now the Gophers, who haven’t started a Big Ten season 0-3 since 1988, face a team that’s as desperate to win as they are.
After seven wins in their first eight games, the Lions have lost four in a row, including road losses to Michigan and Purdue to begin the Big Ten season. The Boilermakers smoked them 77-55 Wednesday night.
“You have to give them time,” Gophers assistant coach Bill Brown said. “Earl could dominate a game from the point guard position.”
Penn State still has senior guard Pete Lisicky, a three-point marksman averaging almost 16 points per game, and junior center Calvin Booth, who led the Big Ten in blocked shots the last two seasons and is leading again this year.
Beyond those two, though, the Lions are relying heavily on freshmen like Earl’s replacement, Joe Crispin. Three other freshman also see time off the bench.
Although Penn State is in the midst of a losing streak, it has shown that it is resilient. The Lions fell behind 35-9 early on at Michigan, then came back before losing 92-75.
“Most teams fold,” Brown said. “But they got the game down to the low single-digits for awhile.”
Minnesota and Penn State are in similar situations, and the consequences of a loss are equally dire. The loser would join Ohio State as the only winless team in the Big Ten.