- Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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INDIANAPOLIS -- Minnesota is playing defense with the purpose of a team that needs a good week here to make the field of 65. Penn State came out looking ready for the offseason, though the Nittany Lions picked things up toward the end of the half.
Quick halftime thoughts:
Penn State arguably came in as the hotter team, but Minnesota was the aggressor from the start, jumping out to a 7-0 lead. Penn State's greatest strength -- aside from star guard Talor Battle -- is its length, but Minnesota is even longer and has shown it so far. Gophers senior forward Damian Johnson, who was snubbed from the All-Big Ten Defensive team earlier in the week, has been tremendous with nine points and two rebounds in the first half.
Battle has been relatively quiet for Penn State (4 points, 2 assists), but sophomore guard Chris Babb is providing a big lift. Babb engineered a 5-0 run to end the half all by himself and has eight points. Penn State is at its best when Battle gets help from his supporting cast. Babb has provided some so far, but other players like David Jackson and Jeff Brooks need to become more involved.
Speaking of involved, Minnesota's starting guards Lawrence Westbrook and Blake Hoffarber were virtually invisible in the first half. They were a combined 0-for-4 from the field for no points. Westbrook and Hoffarber combine to average 23.6 points a game, so they really need to pick things up after the half. Fortunately for them, point guard Devoe Joseph stepped up with 10 first-half points on 4 of 7 shooting.