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Penn State 76, Nebraska 64: Takin’ Care of Business

A strong second half propelled the Nittany Lions to their first win at Nebraska in a quarter-century.

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

The Huskers started the game off en fuego, nailing seven of their first nine shots, as well as their first four three-point attempts, which saw themselves race out to an early seven-point advantage. Fortunately, PSU brought some perimeter shooting firepower of their own, with Jamari Wheeler of all folks, knocking down a pair of treys, as well as Myles Dread and Myreon Jones. This allowed the Lions to stay within striking distance and ultimately, go on a 9-0 run that pushed their lead as high as seven.

Not the kind of team to just lay down however, Nebraska went on a run of their own to keep this one from getting out of hand before halftime. With only a few minutes left in the half, Pat Chambers picked up a technical foul by stepping out of the coaches’ box to argue an egregiously bad out-of-bounds call that went against Myles Dread (the ball clearly had touched a Nebraska player’s foot). This could have marked a turning point for the Huskers, but in a recurring theme, they only hit one of their two technical free throws and failed to take advantage of the extra possession. PSU would cling to a five-point lead going into the locker room, as a result.

After jacking up 20 three-point attempts in the first half alone, PSU would open the second working for good looks inside the paint, where Nebraska has struggled to defend all season long. Sure enough, attacking their opponent’s weakness worked, as PSU used an 8-0 run capped off by Mike Watkins’ alley-oop dunk to push their lead to 13, before Fred Hoiberg was forced to call a timeout for Nebraska just a couple of minutes into the half.

The timeout did nothing to stop the bleeding for the Huskers though, as Watkins continued to assert his dominance on the offensive and defensive end, whether it was blocking shots, or putting back his own misses for dunks. Another trey from Dread and an alley-oop dunk and trey from Lamar would ultimately push PSU’s lead to as high as 21 points.

Nebraska would go on a mini-run to cut the lead back to the mid-teens, but poor free throw shooting and a bunch of hurried three-point shots failing to go down allowed PSU to push their lead into the mid-20’s. This would prove to ultimately an insurmountable deficit, even as the Huskers heated up a bit towards the end, and made the final score look more respectable.

The Nittany Lions have now earned their fourth consecutive win in conference play and more importantly, avoided what would have been a bad loss.

PPP and Four Factors

Nebraska started off shooting quite well, but saw their touch get cryogenically frozen over the course of the game. Ultimately, PSU outshot the Huskers, 45 percent to 39 percent, which is reflected in the efficient FG percentage category. Also, while the Huskers got more opportunities at the free throw line than PSU, they did a horrible job capitalizing, nailing only eight of their 19 attempts from the charity stripe (42.1%). In fairness, PSU wasn’t much better, hitting only six of their 14 attempts (42.9%).

Random Observations

  • YUUUUGE congrats are in order for Lamar Stevens, who became only the third player in program history to hit the 2,000-point mark. He finished tonight with 2,007 career points, putting him only behind Jesse Arnelle (2,138) and Talor Battle (2,213). Passing Battle with be a challenge (more on this in the upcoming MMPG this Monday), but with at least 12 more games to play, Lamar is on pace to surpass Arnelle for the No. 2 spot on the list.
  • Also deserving a shout-out is Mike Watkins, whose 17 rebounds tonight pushed him ahead of John Amaechi to become PSU’s all-time career rebounder in Big Ten games, with 503 boards (Amaechi had 496).
  • I must have been far from alone in yelling at the team through my TV to stop jacking up so many three-pointers, because the second half saw PSU only attempt six of them (and still nailing half of them), and actually attacked Nebraska’s defensive weaknesses inside. Kudos to Pat Chambers and the team for proper halftime adjustments.
  • This was PSU’s first win at Nebraska since the 1995 NIT second round. They had lost six straight in Lincoln prior to tonight, and won there for the first time since the Huskers joined the Big Ten. Always nice to get the monkey off your back!
  • Myles Dread has seemingly found his three-point shooting touch these last couple of games, after going through a serious sophomore slump. It seems moving him to the bench has helped him not only provide a source of instant offense off the bench, but also re-instilled confidence for him. Here’s to hoping he’s finally found his groove as the team trudges on through a pivotal February.

Up Next

The No. 24 Nittany Lions (16-5, 6-4) hit the road for arguably their toughest conference game of the year at No. 14 Michigan State (15-4, 8-3) this coming Tuesday. Tip-off will be at 8:00 PM ET on BTN.