I mean, come on, it's Penn State basketball. What else were you expecting?
The Nittany Lions took down Nebraska on Thursday night, but it was way, way closer than anyone would have hoped. Pat Chambers' bunch seemed like it was hell-bent on blowing the Cornhuskers out of the water for the first 28 minutes or so. Then, Tim Miles' squad battled back, because of course they did. In the end, it was not enough, and the Nittany Lions were able to walk out of the BJC with a 56-55 win.
The first half was all about Penn State's big guns (Taylor and Garner) going up against Nebraska's top player. Garner and Taylor combined to score 23 of the Nittany Lions' 28 points – Garner had 12 and Taylor had 11. Shavon Shields, meanwhile, went for 14 of the Huskers' 20 points. Nebraska's senior forward made five of the team's seven shots from the field, so yeah, it was a lot of him and no one else.
To Penn State's credit, though, it was able to take advantage of a really poor game from the Huskers other than Shields. Penn State was especially successful from behind the arc in the first half – the team went 6-for-15 from downtown, with Taylor (3), Garner (2), and Payton Banks (1) hitting shots from deep.
As for the second half, well, Penn State basketball happened. There was some really, really ugly ball going on from both sides, and just when it looked like the Nittany Lions had a comfortable lead at 18 points, Nebraska came storming back to tie it up with a few seconds left.
But Penn State managed to persevere. Garner hit a free throw to make it a one point game with just over seven seconds left, Nebraska couldn't hit the game-winning shot, and now Chambers has tied his record for conference wins in a season. Garner ended the game with a team-high 22 points, while Taylor followed closely behind with 19 points and 10 rebounds.
The team is 15-13 with an extremely nice 6-9 mark in the Big Ten, and maybe – just maybe – a birth in some kind of postseason tournament isn't that crazy of a thought.
Four Factors Analysis
The Four Factors really give a great look at how close this game ended up being in the end. Neither team had a major advantage at really anything – Penn State was a little better at shooting from the field, while Nebraska did a *slightly* better job holding onto the ball (12 turnovers to Penn State's 13) and getting to the free throw line. Ultimately, Penn State's success from downtown (11-for-25 on threes while Nebraska went 5-for-14) won this game for the Nittany Lions. Wooooooo.
Player of the Game
Shep Garner – 22 points, 5 assists, 8-for-16 shooting, 5-for-10 on threes
One of my favorite things is when Shep is hitting shots. He is so reliant on his ability to hit threes, because he then gets the confidence to attack the rim and set up his teammates and what not. The team had some players lose their composure towards the end of the night, but Garner kept his cool and managed to knock down the free throw to win the game for the Nittany Lions. Never stop going in, Shep.
- Donovon Jack's Hot Streak Ends – One of the most fun subplots of the last few games has been the play of Penn State's senior big man. Unfortunately, he hit a bit of a wall against the Huskers: 5 points on 2-for-7 shooting with a pair of rebounds. It's all good, though. He'll have a great chance to bounce back against Michigan State on Sunday.
- Growing on Threes – The story with Penn State this year has been that the Nittany Lions can't do much from downtown. On Thursday night, Garner and Taylor both hit five threes and the team went 11-for-25 from deep. I like when Penn State can hit threes, don't you?
- Isaiah Washington: The Grit Man – We all know that Isaiah Washington has his shortcomings on offense, but give him credit. The dude straight up brings it every night and always finds ways to make an impact even when he isn't scoring. He had 5 points and 8 (!!!!) rebounds, was a general nuisance on defense, and did all of the much-beloved little things that coaches adore.
- Can't Spell "Nittany Lions" Without NIT – I mean, #WhyNotUs?
Penn State travels to East Lansing on Sunday for a date with Michigan State. Sure, it probably won't end up with a Nittany Lion win, because the Spartans are really, really good. But maybe hit some threes and hope MSU goes cold and play some tough defense and rebound the basketba...
The game tips at noon on the Big Ten Network.