Gophers grab last-second win

Minnesota beat Penn State 66-64 Saturday afternoon.

by Marco LaNave

Finally. The Minnesota menâÄôs basketball team can pull out a close road game, even if itâÄôs only against a last-place team. Senior guard Lawrence Westbrook hit a fadeaway jumper from a step inside the 3-point line as time expired to give Minnesota a 66-64 victory over Penn State at the Bryce Jordan Center on Saturday afternoon. The Gophers (14-8, 5-5 Big Ten) improved to 3-7 on the road, but more importantly they avoided a loss to the Nittany Lions (8-15, 0-11) that would have been their most damaging defeat of the season. If the Gophers had more games end like SaturdayâÄôs, the season might be a different story. TheyâÄôve lost six games by seven points or fewer. On Saturday, Minnesota had a six-point lead after Westbrook hit two free throws with 1:23 remaining. Penn State stormed back when forward David Jackson, who scored 18 points, and guard Talor Battle, who scored a game-high 20 points, hit 3-point field goals sandwiched around a pair of free throws by Gophers senior forward Damian Johnson. WestbrookâÄôs career-high sixth turnover eventually led to the game-tying basket by Battle, who was blocked twice by Gophers sophomore center Ralph Sampson III before making a layup with nine seconds remaining. As in MinnesotaâÄôs attempt to upset No. 6 Michigan State two weeks earlier, Westbrook got the ball at the top of the key with seconds remaining on the clock. He dribbled to his left around a screen but still had to hit the game-winner over Penn State guard Chris Babb. Sampson had 13 points and 10 rebounds for his second career double-double. Three other starters had five rebounds each. Johnson and junior guard Blake Hoffarber scored 13 points and 12 points, respectively. Minnesota hosts Michigan (11-12, 4-7) at Williams Arena Thursday night in the first of four home games in a five-game stretch.