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Penn State 76, Nebraska 74: Lions Prevail

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Penn State blew a 16 point lead to send the game to overtime.

NCAA Basketball: Nebraska at Penn State Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out Penn State would struggle without Josh Reaves. Luckily, a rocket scientist wasn’t involved. Penn State and Nebraska were locked in a tight battle for the first 15 minutes of the game. The Nittany Lions built a methodical lead that ballooned as high at 16 points early in the second half, but Nebraska closed the game out and tied it to force overtime.

Like Northwestern a week ago, the Cornhuskers weren’t just going to roll over. The difference in this one is that Nebraska’s defensive strategy in the second half actually made a difference. The Cornhuskers had themselves a run similar to the Wildcat’s last week, closing that 16-point deficit to the aforementioned tie to set up a last-shot opportunity for themselves.

It’s great to see the Nittany Lions respond well to a tough loss on the road. It’s equally frustrating to see a team, missing its heart and soul, play like they were toying with their opponent at times. If this Penn State team showed up night in and night out, they’d easily be undefeated in Big Ten play. These Nittany Lions saw a fierce Nebraska come back and took it head on. And finally, they were on the winning end of that formula. Let’s just hope they don’t grow to regret their prior inconsistencies come March.

Four Factors Analysis

PPP and Four Factors

Team Total Possessions PPP eFG% OReb% TO% FT Rate
Team Total Possessions PPP eFG% OReb% TO% FT Rate
Penn State 56 1.09 59.3% 37.3% 25.0% 34.9%
Northwestern 1.25 46.9% 39.0% 12.5% 35.4%

When you look up the definition of even in the dictionary, this game will show up. The two uneven factors, offensive rebounds and turnover rate, were the difference between Penn State’s big lead and Nebraska’s comeback. When the Huskers implemented their press, that 16-point lead evaporated. Meanwhile, the second opportunities were what kept the Lions ahead for most of the second half.

Players of the Game

Lamar Stevens had 26 points, and Mike Watkins had another double-double. This formula works. Let’s keep using it. Honorable mention goes to Tony Carr, who kept dishing the ball around to make life easier on his teammates when his own shot wasn’t falling. Also he gets the nod for the game winner.

Random Observations

Tony Carr makes his teammates better - Carr didn’t have a great scoring night, but he made up for it by dishing the ball out eight times, setting up just about anyone with hands and a willingness to shoot the ball.

Then again, same old habits - Everything seemed to work well when they were up double digits. But once Nebraska closed the game out, suddenly the ball movement that was so paramount evaporated. Can’t do that.

The double-edged press - Penn State got a taste of its own medicine tonight, as Nebraska implemented its own version of the press to harass the Lions for most of the second half. It was the fire the ignited the Nebraska comeback.

“This team has such high potential” - Listen to Jon Crispin. The team has the potential. Now they need to maintain the execution.

100? 100. - This was Pat Chambers’s 100th win as the Nittany Lion head coach. Congratulations, coach!

Looking Ahead

Penn State welcomes struggling Minnesota to the BJC on Monday, January 15. Game tips off at 7:00 PM on BTN.