Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports
In what was deemed as Penn State's best chance for a conference win, the Lions made their case for 0-18.
There are no words for what we just witnessed.
Penn State, on behalf of their coach's awareness, had just been gift-wrapped a golden opportunity to take a game they had been losing for most of the day. You see, thanks to Nebraska's futile attempt at a press-break and the NCAA's silly elbow rule, Penn State was awarded four foul shots (thanks to a flagrant foul) and the ball. The Lions essentially had the chance to go from down 3 to up 3 or even 4 points in just one possession! That kind of opportunity simply doesn't come around very often in a game, let alone with just 30 seconds left on the clock.
But this team, who has struggled so mightily in conference play, one-upped their own ineptitude once again. Despite leading the league in FT% as a team in league play, the Lions missed 3 of 4 freebies (DJ Newbill 1-2, Ross Travis 0-2). Instead of having a chance to lead, they had to fight for the tie one last possession.
Jermaine Marshall went to his patented spin move, got away with some forearm extension, and drew the foul on his shot. Marshall, PSU's best free throw shooter, was 6-6 from the foul line and had finally gotten into a groove in the second half. It didn't matter. He also missed both of his free throw attempts.
So to recap: PSU earned six chances from the charity stripe on one possession but yielded just one point. Coincidentally, the Cornhuskers, who aren't a strong free throw shooting club themselves, made all 16 of their foul shots.
Maybe this team is destined for 0-18?
It's still very hard to go winless in this conference, but after that, it seems to be the only relevant discussion for this team anymore.
As for the game itself, Penn State let true freshmen Shavon Shields get nearly every shot he wanted, as he dominated throughout for 29 points on just 11 shots. Shields was coming off a breakout game at home vs Purdue where the 6 PPG scorer broke out for 18 in a loss. Too early to say if he's for real, but let's hope so for Penn State's sake.
The offense yet again came and went throughout the game. There were layups missed and unforced turnovers, but the Lions gained some confidence in the 2nd half as they erased a 10-point deficit, mostly due to 2nd chance opportunities. Six players scored more than six points a piece, but the Lions two best players couldn't build off their great performance Wednesday.
Newbill's had an interesting statline: 11 points (3-11 FGA), 7 rebounds, 6 assists, and 6 turnovers. He's admirably trying to fill Tim Frazier's void, but he's simply not a point guard. His mid-range game continues to suffer while he struggled to take care of the ball. If only there was more help for him on the roster. Marshall was off and on throughout the game, missing open shots and converting difficult ones. He did score 18 points in the 2nd half, but shot just 31% from the field. Then there was the whole free throw fiasco.
Pat Chambers' job continues to get harder and harder by the day. After that letdown, who knows what the mental psyche of this team is. Chambers will demand they keep their positive attitude, but these kind of losses aren't easy to get over. With the holes on this team, who knows if they can ever emerge from the pit they dug themselves at the bottom of the league.