Gophers Complete 23-Point Comeback to Beat Penn State, Keep Tourney Hopes Alive

Photo: Minnesota Gophers Basketball (@GopherMBB - X)

The Minnesota Gophers had a chance to plop themselves directly into NCAA Tournament conversations two games ago, when they were teetering on the bubble with two-straight quad-one game on the horizon @ Nebraska and @ Illinois.

They were blown out in Nebraska and bested by Illinois in Champaign, even though they played one of the best offensive games of their season. So when Penn State came to The Barn on Saturday, the Gophers needed a win just to keep any hopes of dancing later this month alive.

And it didn’t look good in the first half when the Nittany Lions led, at one point, by 23. The first 15 minutes of the first half was probably the worst stretch of basketball the Gophers have played all season. And that’s saying something for a team that has blown multiple 2nd half leads of 15 or more.

Hawkins, Christie and Fox lead Minnesota Gophers comeback

But Minnesota went on a 9-1 run to end the first half, cutting the Nittany Lions lead to 12 before halftime. And the Gopher surge continued in the 2nd half, where they outscored Penn State 45-28 and somehow found a way to victory in a game they had to have.

Elijah Hawkins led the comeback, scoring 18 points and assisting on 8 more baskets. He also grabbed the school record for assists in a season when he hit 208, a record that has at least three games to stretch out even further.

The Howard transfer continues to be the 2nd best thing that head coach Ben Johnson did this offseason, behind only Cam Christie, the true freshman who led Minnesota in scoring on Saturday, posting 19 points and adding a block and steal on defense.

If Ben Johnson is going to continue his ascend in year four of his program, he and Dinkytown Athletes have to find a way to keep that kid around next season. Parker Fox was a big part of the comeback too.

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No matter how things are going, Fox is going to give you energy and focus off the bench and the Gophers needed that attitude in the first half of this contest. Minnesota was a much better team with Parker on the floor today. He was a +19, the only Gopher who was plus double digits on the day. Cam Christie was closest at +9.

Next up for the Gophers is on Wednesday, their regular season home finale vs (15-13) Indiana. If they want any chance at the NCAA Tournament, they need to beat the Hoosiers and follow that up with a win in Northwestern in the last game of the season. That would set them up for a nerve racking Selection Sunday, should they be able to snag one or two wins in the Big Ten Tournament next week at Target Center.

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