Penn State at Nebraska Preview: Can Nittany Lions Slow Down Surging Huskers?

Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

Fresh off the biggest win of their B1G existence, Nebraska returns home with a chance to get over .500 in the conference. Can Penn State play road spoiler once again?

Who: Nebraska Cornhuskers (14-10, 6-6)
When: Tonight, 7pm ET
Where: Pinnacle Bank Arena
TV: ESPNU
KenPom Rank: 62
Vegas Line: Nebrasketball -5
Enemy Blog: Corn Nation

Before the season began, hell, before conference play began, most Penn State fans would've viewed this game as a possible win, if not a probable one. But after Nebrasketball's upset of Michigan State in East Lansing, you'd be hard pressed to find a team that wouldn't consider themselves fortunate to get a win in Lincoln. The Huskers have lost just once at home this season, and that lone defeat was a nail-biter against a Michigan squad that was red hot at the time. Tim Miles will have his team firmly on the bubble if they can finish with a winning conference record, and taming the Nittany Lions would keep their momentum going.

Penn State is traveling without Allen Roberts for the second time this season, although unlike the first time we won't see the graduate transfer return to the team. Roberts has "parted ways" with the program, a move triggered by the increased playing time Pat Chambers has given to freshmen Graham Woodward and Geno Thorpe. His minutes began to diminish once John Johnson became eligible in December and with two guards already getting 35+ minutes per game, it was always going to be a battle for Roberts to earn a lot of run. His shooting percentages dipped as the season went on but he gave Penn State some quality minutes in non-conference play, posting 15 points in the win at duqane. He will be remembered as the second best 'A-Rob' to play sports at PSU in 2013.

Scouting The Opposition

When Nebraska fell at the Bryce Jordan Center last month, the game was played at the pace of a light crawl. Penn State needed all 60 of those possessions to ensure their first B1G win, as the Huskers were on the front foot just about the whole night before some late Nittany Lion heroics. The key for PSU on that evening was interior defense - Nebraska went just 9-30 from two-point range, though they did get theirs from beyond the arc (10-23).

Surprise B1G Player of the Year candidate Terran Petteway had a team-high 15 that night, but he's capable of much more - just ask Sparty, whom the Texas Tech transfer torched for 23 points on Sunday. He's a volume scorer, so limiting his open looks should be a priority for the porous Penn State defense. Shavon Shields is another sophomore that is capable of a big night, as Lion fans will remember from last season. He put up 29 in Nebraska's win in the BJC a year ago and had 33 points against Illinois last week. PSU won't have to face Deverell Biggs this time around, as the JuCo transfer was kicked off the team for detrimental conduct a few days after their trip to State College.

Key Matchup

Penn State has been difficult to beat when the frontline hangs with their opponent on the offensive glass, and they'll have a tough matchup against the Huskers, who are the conference's current leaders in grabbing defensive boards. Donovon Jack in particular seems to be the pivotal figure in the paint, and staying out of foul trouble might be easier against fellow stretch-5 Walter Pitchford.

Prediction

Penn State has played well for two straight games but only surfaced with a 1-1 record, and unfortunately they now run into the team with the most momentum in the B1G on the conference's best home floor. This could be a banana peel game for the Huskers, but between the hot play of Petteway and the raucous home crowd, it's going to be tough treading for the Nittany Lions. Nebraska should take this one, and I'll say they cover as well with a 76-69 win.

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