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Penn State vs Nebraska Preview: Winning Without Reaves

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Josh Reaves might be out for a second straight game, so Penn State will have to win without him.

NCAA Basketball: Big Ten Conference Tournament-Penn State vs Nebraska Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

After another “close, but no cigar” game, Penn State returns to the Bryce Jordan to take on Nebraska. The Cornhuskers are 3-2 in the Big Ten, coming off an overtime win against Wisconsin at home. Like the Nittany Lions, Nebraska has made a living off playing tough defense and going through five to ten minutes stretches without a field goal. This game will likely come down to whoever can avoid going 11 minutes without a field goal.

Another thing Nebraska likes to do that Penn State has started doing more often is the press. Seemingly every home game goes the same way: Nittany Lions build a big lead, Huskers go into press mode and cut the lead down to one or two points, Penn State manages to survive as the seconds wind down. Let’s see if this game will be a continuation of that trend.

Scouting the opposition

Tim Miles has relied on transfers since he got to Lincoln, and this year is no different. He’s assembled a number of rosters with players from other teams, and this is the year for some of those players. James Palmer Jr., Duby Okeke, Evan Taylor, Anton Gill, and Isaac Copeland are all transfers that have seen different levels of production this year. Gill is Nebraska’s most reliable three-point shooter at 48%, while Copeland is a force inside. Palmer’s assist rate of 19.4 is second on the team. Of Nebraska’s originals, Glynn Watson, Jordy Tshimanga, and Isaiah Roby see the most time. Watson’s ARate is first on the team at 23.9.

What to watch for

Can Penn State play without Josh Reaves? - Reaves has been the heart and soul of this team all season, providing just about everything the team could need at any given point. The Nittany Lions dropped a winnable game at Indiana without him. Will they drop another one if he doesn’t play?

Will Carr get his efficiency back? - Tony Carr scored 28 points on Tuesday, but went nine of 20 in field goals. Carr is hovering around 2017 Shep Garner territory in terms of efficiency. If he’s not able to make some shots, it might spell trouble for the Nittany Lions.

Speaking of Shep Garner - The senior took four shots on Tuesday, making two of them. Maybe it’s time to set him up for some more? Carr is clearly in a funk, so maybe getting his teammates involved would be a better strategy than hogging the ball.

Free throw reality - This is not a good free throw shooting team. It’s already cost the Lions a few games. In fact, Tuesday’s game would have gone differently had Lamar Stevens made at least one of those three free throws he missed.

Prediction

Tim Miles has beaten Penn State exactly once outside of Lincoln. That time was in 2012, when Pat Chambers fielded his worst team as the Penn State coach. If history is any indication, we’re likely to see a close game between those two teams. Although, not having Reaves for this game makes me believe this will be the second time Miles has won outside of PBA.
With Reaves: Nebraska 71, Penn State 70
Without Reaves: Nebraska 89, Penn State 55