Game 18: Nebraska Preview

Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

After an encouraging performance against Michigan State, the Nittany Lions host the Cornhuskers in a battle of winless Big Ten teams.

Who: Nebraska Cornhuskers (9-9, 0-5)
When: Saturday, 1:00pm
Where: Bryce Jordan Center
TV: ESPNU

Coming into Wednesday's game against Michigan State, Penn State had looked downright dismal in their last three outings, losing by a combined score of 204-147. Against Sparty, however, the Lions showed signs of life for the first time since their January 3rd meeting with Wisconsin at the Kohl Center. Jermaine Marshall (29 points) and D.J. Newbill (27 points) spearheaded an attack worthy of 72 points against the 17th-ranked team in the nation, and the Lions will look to carry some of that offensive momentum into Saturday's matchup against Nebraska.

The Cornhuskers sit alongside the Lions as the only teams in the Big Ten without a win in conference play, though three of their five losses have come on the road against ranked opponents. First year head coach Tim Miles (who, believe it or not, is more active on twitter than Pat Chambers) will see this as a major opportunity to get his first conference win--these teams match up very evenly, in that they are both pretty inept offensively.

Nebrasketball has somehow managed to be worse on offense than Penn State through five conference games. The Huskers average a league-worst in the following categories (Big Ten games only): points per game (48.8), points per possession (0.81), field goal percentage (34.7%), and free throws attempted (40). Penn State is second worst in those categories (except FTA, where the Lions surprisingly rank as 8th best), mind you. Nebraska has been very good at protecting the ball, as they only commit turnovers on 13.9% of their possessions.

A trio of upperclassmen lead the way for Nebraska on offense. Dylan Talley, Ray Gallegos, and Brandon Ubel all put up just over 12 points per contest. Ubel, a senior big man, has missed the last two games due to a fractured elbow and his status for Saturday remains unclear.

Andre Almeida, the 6'11" 314lb Brazilian center, will be quite the matchup for Sasa Borovnjak on the inside regardless of Ubel's availability. "O Colhedor" has been stifled a bit in Big Ten play but still averages 6.3 points on 51% shooting and four boards a game. If the Michigan State game is any indication, stopping the Nebraska bigs will go a long way towards securing a victory. Freshman swingman Shavon Shields is a player to watch; he registered a career-high 18 points against Purdue on Wednesday.

The key to victory for Penn State will be putting up offensive numbers similar to Wednesday night's effort. The Nits shot 48% from the field against a traditionally stout Michigan State defense, and continuing that trend would go a great way towards winning this game. The only bone to pick with that performance would be the lack of a third scorer--Brandon Taylor went scoreless for the first time since the season opener where he logged five minutes against St. Francis (PA).

Defensively, this should be a much easier task as Nebraska doesn't have an Adreian Payne-type that can dominate on the inside against Borovnjak or Jon Graham, especially if Ubel isn't able to go. Penn State's opponents have shot 38.8% from three against the Lions in conference play, but Nebraska's ineptitude in that area may trump that figure, as the Huskers are shooting only 25% from deep in their five conference losses.

Saturday's game is also the annual THON Hoops game. All proceeds from student ticket sales will benefit THON, so if you're on campus this weekend you better get your ass to this game.


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