At some point in Penn State's 80-66 loss against Minnesota at the Bryce Jordan Center on Sunday, the two teams attempted shots from the field and the Golden Gophers dominated the Nittany Lions in shooting percentage 55.3 percent to 30 percent. For all intents and purposes, that spread was where the game was one and lost.
A quick glance across the score sheet, though, and it's hard not to notice the staggering number of free throws attempted. The two teams combined to shoot 72 on the evening. That pace represents nearly one trip to the foul line every 30 seconds and especially during the second half, the game seemed to be more of a free throw shooting contest than a basketball game, with both teams marching to the stripe a several times every minute.
After the game, Penn State coach Patrick Chambers expressed doubt that the slow pace affected his team's rhythm.
"I teach them all the time, that's what 'attitude' is about," Chambers said. "You can't let officiating or missing shots dictate your effort. I'll watch the film, but you can't let the ref's whistle bother how you play."
That said, the volume of free throws attempted was historic and hard to ignore.
Minnesota's 33 made free throws and 44 attempted free throws are a Big Ten opponent records against Penn State. For the game, the Lions were whistled for a staggering 29 fouls. Six players between the two teams scored half or more of their total points in the game from the foul line.
Luckily for both teams, they were able to convert at a solid pace. The Gophers shot 75 percent from the line while the Lions hit at an 82.1 percent clip. Still, the number of foul shots taken slowed things down considerably to a pace Penn State isn't used to playing at. The resulting offensive effort was a paltry 30 percent shooting from the field including 29.2 percent from the free point line.
Penn State guard Cammeron Woodyard, like his coach, dismissed the role the frequent foul calls had on the game. If the whistles did have and effect, however, the senior spoke words that are true regardless.
"The referees got to be part of the game," Woodyard said. "We've got to adapt to how they play the game."
Penn State will get its next chance to adapt on Thursday night when Illinois visits the Bryce Jordan Center.