U loses another game, player

Tim Klobuchar

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — The line is razor-thin.
The line is between the Gophers looking at their 0-3 Big Ten start calmly because their top two scorers have missed almost a combined two-and-a-half games, and disgustedly because they’ve had a chance to win each of those games. Here’s a quick sampling:
“We did a tremendous job of executing our game plan,” Minnesota coach Clem Haskins said after his team’s 75-68 loss at Penn State on Saturday. “You can’t blame the players when you don’t have a full deck to play with.”
Said Miles Tarver: “0-3 is (expletive). Nobody wants to start the Big Ten 0-3. We have to realize that people are going to come at us with their best game because of the success we had last year.”
There’s truth to each of those statements. But no matter if they justify or belittle their poor start, the Gophers still end up seeing the same thing — their name at the bottom of the Big Ten standings, and three straight losses to start the conference season for the first time since 1987-88.
Their latest loss featured both perspectives of Minnesota’s early-season floundering. The Gophers led by as many 13 points in the second half but faltered late in the game as they did in losses to Purdue and Northwestern.
But at least part of Saturday’s demise was attributable to another key player getting hurt. Junior forward Quincy Lewis, the team’s second-leading scorer at 14.2 points per game, left with what turned out to be a sprained left thumb with 14:30 remaining in the game and did not return.
Shortly after the game, Lewis had X-rays, which turned up negative. He could play Wednesday against Michigan State, depending on the severity of the pain.
Lewis, who shoots right-handed, first jammed the thumb in a non-conference game in late December. Lewis joins leading scorer Sam Jacobson as key Gophers sidelined with injuries.
Jacobson did not make the trip to State College because of an acutely sprained back, missing his second straight game. His status for Wednesday is listed as “hopeful,” but as Haskins said, “he could be out for a month.”
While Tarver said he didn’t want to blame injuries, he proved he could step to the other side of the line when he was asked about Lewis’ absence.
“Down the stretch when we needed to make a shot, we didn’t do it,” he said. “That’s where we needed Quincy.”
Penn State had a few of those players Saturday. It should also be noted that Dan Earl, the Lions’ outstanding point guard, is out for the season with a knee injury. Penn State has struggled without him, losing four in a row before beating Minnesota.
Senior guard Pete Lisicky said the team has doubted itself lately, but speaking of his own shooting, said, “I’ll never lose my confidence.”
Lisicky, one of the conference’s top 3-point shooters, was unaffected by his 2-for-8 shooting performance in the first half and hit the game’s pivotal shot. His long three-pointer from the top of the key with 2:20 left put the Lions ahead for the first time, and to stay.
Freshman point guard Joe Crispin made sure of that by sinking all eight of his free throws after Lisicky’s shot. He finished 14-for-14 from the line.
6-11 junior Calvin Booth prevented a first-half blowout with 13 points, and finished with 23, a typically high total for a talented post player against the smallish Gophers. The difference was this time, Minnesota got a big night from one of its big men. Redshirt freshman Kyle Sanden scored 16 points, nine better than his previous career high.
“Kyle Sanden was just outstanding,” Haskins said. “That’s the beauty of college basketball. It’s too bad you have to win to keep people happy sometimes. But you watch young people grow, and tonight Kyle Sanden made leaps and bounds. That’s the best he’s played so far in the Big Ten, and it’s only his third game. It’s really rewarding in defeat to see him play well.”
Strong games from role players like Sanden are the small consolations the Gophers have received lately. Sophomore guard Russ Archambault scored a career-high 15 points Wednesday at Northwestern.
“Injuries are hitting us hard,” said senior guard Eric Harris, who led Minnesota with 20 points against Penn State and sounded as optimistic as Haskins. “But on the bright side, we’re still playing and still giving 100 percent. We’re not going in with the attitude that we’re already defeated.”
No, but the Gophers will still have to adopt an attitude they’d rather not — one of desperation.
“It’s definitely must-win time,” Tarver said. “It’s a situation where we have to play smart and we have to execute.”
Minnesota will get a chance to break its slump on Wednesday against the Spartans. Fortunately, the game is at Williams Arena, the first in almost two weeks. Asked if that’s just what the Gophers need to break through, Tarver hinted Minnesota’s troubles go beyond simple home-court advantage.
“We need Florida Atlantic back,” he said.

SATURDAY’S SUMMARY

Gophers 40 28 — 68
Penn St. 30 45 — 75

Gophers (7-7)
Lewis 3-9 4-4 10, Tarver 3-4 0-0 6, Sanden 7-9 2-5 16, Clark 2-6 2-2 6, Harris 8-14 2-2 20, Archambault 3-8 1-1 8, Nathaniel 0-1 0-0 0, Schoenrock 0-0 0-0 0, Ja. Stanford 0-0 0-0 0, Je. Stanford, 0-0 0-0 0, Broxsie 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 27-52 11-14 68.
Penn St. (8-5)
Ivory 0-1 0-0 0, Jackson 0-0 0-0 0, Booth 9-12 5-6 23, Crispin 1-4 14-14 16, Lisicky 4-13 4-4 15, Cline-Heard 0-0 0-0 0, Grays 2-5 3-4 7, Stephens 3-10 3-5 9, Stevenson 2-4 0-0 5, Witkowsky 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 21-49 29-33 75.
3-Point goals — Minnesota 3-13 (Harris 2-4, Archambault 1-6, Lewis 0-2, Nathaniel 0-1), Penn St. 4-14 (Lisicky 3-8, Stevenson 1-1, Grays 0-2, Crispin 0-3). Fouled out — None. Rebounds — Minnesota 28 (Tarver 9), Penn St. 28 (Booth 8). Assists —Minnesota 15 (Clark 5), Penn St. 14 (Lisicky 4). Total fouls — Minnesota 25, Penn St. 16. A-10,461.