*tries to remember how to breathe again*
*can't quite do it*
*starts writing anyway*
This was the most Penn State basketball game you can imagine. The Nittany Lions played great during the first half. Penn State started the second half on fire.
And then, when PSU had a 16-point lead in the second half, Penn State basketball happened. Pat Chambers' squad suddenly couldn't hit anything from the floor, and a scoring drought that lasted 6:24 happened. In that time, Penn State's 16 point lead got whittled down to two by Nebraska, which made Penn State look like bad Penn State thanks to a full-court press and the sudden ability to forget how to do stuff on offense.
Somehow -- seriously, I have no idea how -- Penn State managed to keep Nebraska at arm's length the entire time. Sure, the Huskers came close. They came really close. But they couldn't quite get there. That's not supposed to happen to Penn State. Opponents are supposed to ride the momentum they gain during the Penn State Second Half Slump™ to a 10-point win.
That didn't happen. D.J. Motherfucking Newbill didn't let that happen. Shep Garner didn't let that happen. Penn State's players -- who blocked shots at an unreal rate (we'll get to that in a second) -- didn't let that happened. This team, which frustrated us all year, did it. It closed out a game. It will finish no worse than .500. And repeatedly, the maniac from Philadelphia who wears No. 2 for Penn State reminded us that he is, no matter what the Big Ten media or coaches think, one of the five best players in the conference.
It was awesome.
Four Factors Analysis
Nebraska played out of its collective mind in regards to offensive rebounding. That's why it was able to stay in this game. The Huskers grabbed 23 offensive boards, which is the kind of thing that helps a lot when you shoot as horribly from the field as the Huskers did. Seriously, an eFG% of 34.1 percent is hideous.
Still, Penn State shot relatively well from the field, as evidenced by its eFG% of 50.0%. PSU went 23-for-55 from the floor and 9-for-22 from three, which is great. The Nittany Lions also locked down on Nebraska, and if the Huskers didn't attack the offensive glass with such intensity, Penn State would have won this game by double-digits. Nebraska shot 19-for-63 from the floor, coming in at a cool 30.2 percent. Tim Miles' squad shot a little better from three -- 5-for-14 (35.7 percent) -- but it still was a night to forget from the floor, which has been a constant for Nebraska this season.
Player of the Game - D.J. Newbill
Remember that time D.J. Newbill wasn't a first-team All-Big Ten pick?
Newbill played like one of the best basketball players in America today. Not just in the Big Ten, but in America. The senior dropped 26 on a usually really stingy Huskers' defense. I don't know if he was motivated by his desire to crap on everyone who didn't vote him first-team All-Big Ten or something else (like, you know, the fact that if Penn State lost today it would probably be his last college basketball game). But he played like a superstar. Because he is one.
- Block Party -- You know how one of the most frustrating things about Penn State is that it has this nasty habit of mauling people on drives? For some reason, that didn't happen nearly as much as usual today. The Nittany Lions had an absurd 16 blocks today. It was a Big Ten Tournament record -- the old record was 12 by Wisconsin a few years back. It broke down thusly: Brandon Taylor had five, D.J. Newbill had four, Donovon Jack had three, Julian Moore had two, Jordan Dickerson and Geno Thorpe had one. Nice.
- Old Shep -- It's kind of weird to say a freshman played like his old self, but this was the Shep Garner we fell in love with. He was a marksman from downtown, and he was hitting them in a variety of ways: off the bounce, catch-and-shoot, everything. If he plays like this next year, maybe replacing Newbill won't be such a daunting task. Yung Shep had 19 points on 6-for-11 shooting and 5-for-8 from three. He also had three steals, two rebounds and two assists. Not bad!
- Let's Never Do That Again -- Penn State was up by 16 at one point during the second half and won by three. That's...not ideal.
- We're Gonna Be No Worse Than .500 This Year -- Baby steps.
Penn State takes on a pretty solid Iowa squad in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament. The two sides met up at the end of February in the Bryce Jordan Center, and the Nittany Lions fell to the Hawkeyes in overtime, 81-77. Four PSU players scored in double-digits -- Newbill had 19, Garner has 17, Thorpe had 14 and Travis had 10. If you remember, Penn State was up 23-11 at one point. It was awesome.
Hopefully, it will be a revenge game, and the Nittany Lions can continue a weird and magical run. It is scheduled to tip off at 2:30 on the Big Ten Network, but there is a game beforehand, so that's a bit up in the air. Still, tomorrow around 2:30.