Men’s Basketball Tops Nebraska for Much Needed Win

Story posted February 8, 2015 in Sports, CommRadio by Uriah Tagle

The upper deck of the Bryce Jordan Center was open and 11,702 fans packed the seats of the arena to watch the Penn State Nittany Lions (15-9, 2-8 Big Ten) defeat the visiting Nebraska Cornhuskers (13-10, 5-6 Big Ten) 56-43 in the annual THON Hoops game. The game marked the third Big Ten conference victory for the Nittany Lions, as well as the sixth conference defeat for the Cornhuskers who have not yet won a Big Ten game on the road.

It was a ghastly shooting performance from each team in the first half, with Nebraska shooting 4-23 (17.4 percent) from the field, and Penn State posting an equally ugly 6-20 (30 percent) mark. After eight minutes, three of which passed without a Nittany Lion basket, it was a baseball score, with Nebraska owning a 6-3 lead.

After a media timeout, a pair of Brandon Taylor three pointers broke the scoreless streak and gave Penn State a lead that they would take into halftime and never relinquish. Taylor had eight points in the first half, and finished the night with eleven while also adding four rebounds.

After securing a 22-13 lead at the half, the Nittany Lions came out of the gates hot in the second period, going on an 8-0 run sparked by Taylor’s third three pointer of the night, a deep three from freshman point guard Shep Garner, and a fast-break slam dunk from Geno Thorpe.

Thorpe led all Penn State scorers with 14 points on 5-10 shooting, 12 of which came in the second half, while also adding three momentum-changing steals on the defensive end which led to several breakaway dunks.

“We just stick to our game-plan,” Thorpe said in the postgame press conference. We just try to play solid defense, and that’s what we did tonight.”

The Nittany Lions continued to roll in the first five minutes of the second half, eventually swelling their lead to a game-high 20, before the Cornhuskers reeled off 12 unanswered points to bring the game within six. The run was sparked on the defensive end for Nebraska, who played a relentless full court press defense that forced several of Penn State’s 16 turnovers.

The two teams traded runs for the duration of the second half, and though the Huskers eventually found themselves within three points with just five minutes remaining in the game, they ultimately fell short thanks to a 9-2 Penn State scoring run to end the night. The proverbial dagger came with just under two minutes remaining when Shep Garner nailed a three-pointer to give the Nittany Lions a ten point lead.

“Shep Garner hit huge threes,” said Pat Chambers when addressing the media. “There’s a freshman who stepped up and hit big-time shots.”

“Shep is one of those guys who had unlimited heart,” said backcourt partner D.J. Newbill. “He’ll miss five and he’ll come down and shoot the next one. He’s fearless.”

Though the box score may paint the game as an ugly win, holding the Cornhuskers to just 43 points on 15-51 shooting (29.4 percent) was Penn State’s best defensive performance of the season thus far. Nebraska leading scorers Terran Petteway and Shavon Shields were held to just 13 and 12 points respectively, and shot a combined 8-25 (32 percent) from the field.

“I thought our defense was terrific,” Chambers said after the game. “We talked early, we talked often, and everybody really knew the scouting report.”

A majority of Nebraska’s struggles on offense came from their performance from behind the arc, where they made only 2 of their 20 deep balls (10 percent).

“We haven’t been a very good outside shooting team and our three point shooting percentage is really low this season,” said Nebraska head coach Tim Miles after the game. “I didn’t think we had great sharpness and crispness with our offense.”

The Penn State win ties the all-time series with the Cornhuskers at five wins per side. The Nittany Lions’ 39 rebounds marked their highest total in conference play this season.

“This is what we’re built for,” said Chambers. “I’m OK with ugly as long as we get the win.”

Penn State will travel to Columbus on Wednesday to take on the #20 Ohio State Buckeyes (17-6, 6-4 Big Ten) at 7 PM.

Uriah Tagle is a senior majoring in communication arts and sciences and economics. To contact him, email uriahtagle@gmail.com.