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Slow start, but Penn State pulls away from Nebraska 56-43

The lid was tight on the rim, but a strong second half jolt gave the Nittany Lions a comfortable cushion the rest of the way.

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

When your opponent makes only four shots in the first half, you'd think there's a sizable advantage going into the break. That's true more times than not, but when Penn State was able to only go 6 for 20 from the field, it was a lot of cause for concern. Rightfully so. Shavon Shields, Terran Petteway and David Rivers were the only Huskers to score in the first half.

There were a couple things to take away from such a dismal first half for both teams.

Brandon Taylor looked confident in his shot selection early. He led the Nittany Lions along with D.J. Newbill as the leading scorers with eight points a piece. Taylor was 2 for 4 from downtown and both of his makes were in situations where he was comfortable enough to step into his shot.

Rebounding has and always will be a point of emphasis for the Nittany Lions and with all the missed shots, Penn State only allowed three offensive rebounds. That's not an easy task with Walter Pitchford and Moses Abraham holding it down for the Huskers. It's always great when Penn State outrebounds a team by 10.

Even though Penn State did as good of a job all year defensively, this is pretty familiar ground for the Huskers. This is a team with a loss to Incarnate Word and only scored in the 40s at Michigan and Minnesota this year. Even head coach Tim Miles said after the game he's surprised the way his team hasn't been able to shoot to a high percentage especially from outside.

Petteway had a lot of looks he normally takes and today was just not his day. 1 for 7 from outside does not describe a player who came into today tied for 30th in the country in points per game.

Four Factors Analysis

Team Possessions PPP eFG% OReb% TO% FT Rate
Penn State 62 0.90 53.4% 22.2% 25.9% 31.8%
Nebraska - 0.69 31.4% 13.2% 16.2% 29.4%

Penn State got out to a lead as large as 20 in the second half and it felt like that for most of the game. Nebraska struggled at an alarming rate form outside (2-20) and Penn State didn't allow a lot of opportunities on long rebounds. The TO% is why Nebraska got the lead down to as much as three. The pressure seemed to overwhelm the Nittany Lions in the beginning stages, but a couple run outs really fueled the momentum and calmed down Penn State.

Player of the Game

Geno Thorpe had only two points and three rebounds at halftime and ended up leading Penn State in scoring via multiple facets. When Nebraska brought the full court pressure in the second half, Geno found himself as the beneficiary on a couple run out out opportunities. D.J. only had three points in the second half and was much more of a facilitator and Geno stepped up on multiple occasions in the half court. The Penn State supporting cast outplayed the Nebraska supporting cast and Thorpe led the way for a victory.

Random Observations

  • Didn't need D.J.? - It's hard to believe, but Penn State operates with much more unison when it all isn't thrown on D.J.'s shoulders to bail this team out. There was one set tonight when D.J. had the ball on the wing, three guards were on the other half of the floor and Jordan Dickerson ran from the opposite block to set him a screen. It eventually evolved into a turnover, but there has to be a more conscious effort for other guys to step up and not hope D.J. is the savior. It's not a surprise in his two 30+ point efforts this season have all resulted in losses.
  • Drama avoided - As aforementioned, the pressure from Nebraska got to Penn State early when the Huskers went to the man-to-man full court press. Even though the lead almost got away from Penn State, it showed a lot about this team to keep their composure. It would have been nice to win by 15 or 20, but this was definitely a much better learning tool for this team.
  • Bubble conversation - The argument can be made for Penn State to be on the cusp of bubble conversation if they are able to come away with another win in Columbus this week. Penn State would be 16-9 and 4-8 in the Big Ten with a struggling Maryland team and Wisconsin coming to State College next. If Penn State were able to come away with two wins out of the next three games, maybe the postseason talk can come back on the horizon.