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Nebraska 76, Penn State 64: Another Blowout at PBA

For whatever reason, Penn State can never stay close at Pinnacle Bank Arena

NCAA Basketball: Penn State at Nebraska Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

Since Nebraska joined the Big Ten, the Nittany Lions have been unable to win a game at their gym. When Pinnacle Bank Arena opened a year later, the losses have been of the blowout fashion.

Early in the first half of this game, it looked like it would be more of the same. Without Mike Watkins establishing a presence inside for the Lions, the Cornhuskers did whatever they wanted inside. Reminiscent of last season’s game, Nebraska seemingly ran the same play over and over inside the paint for great results. Meanwhile, Penn State could get absolutely nothing inside and out, for that matter.

It’s easy to point at Watkins’s absence this time around as the obvious reason the team didn’t play well, but there’s something about PBA that just makes the Nittany Lions play much worse than they really are. Easy shots not going in, silly turnovers, and overall erratic play allowed the Huskers to simply build a lead the Nittany Lions were not able to come back from.

Four Factors Analysis

Obvious thing is obvious. Mike Watkins wasn’t on the floor and Nebraska dominated inside. Penn State’s tenacity on defense to begin the second half makes the numbers look more even, but it wasn’t that even. The slew of turnovers by the Huskers really only shrunk the deficit to 11 points. That would be the closest the Nittany Lions would get all half.

Player of the Game

Tony Carr gets the nod kind of by default, as the team looked terrible tonight. Tony still had the best performance of the bunch. Carr go on would eclipse the 1000-point mark, the first sophomore to hit the mark in Penn State history.

Random Observations

There’s still the NIT - Penn State would need to make the Big Ten Tournament final in order to be in serious consideration for the NCAA Tournament at this point. But at 9-9 in conference play, they’ve done just enough to put themselves in the NIT. Maybe not what we all expected at the beginning of the season, but when the team lost three of four in the middle of the season, even this seemed unattainable.

The starters are all important - Penn State lost three of four when Josh Reaves was out. They’ve lost all three games without Watkins.* The bench has gotten better over time, but it’s not yet consistent enough to make such a loss not matter.

One more win - Penn State can still reach the elusive 20-win mark with a win against Northwestern on Thursday. The Nittany Lions have not won over 20-games since the last time they went to the NIT in 2008-09.**

Looking Ahead

Penn State will play Northwestern in the 7-10 matchup of the Big Ten Tournament. If they win that, they get a date with Ohio State, whom they’ve already beaten twice this season. The game with the Wildcats will tip off at 6:30 on BTN.

*Yes, he played against Purdue and Michigan, but it was less than 10 minutes each time.
**Most of these “haven't done since” scenarios go back to the NIT championship season.