Penn State vs. Nebraska Preview

Story posted January 23, 2014 in Sports, CommRadio by Uriah Tagle

After yet another incomplete performance resulted in a 65-64 loss to the Purdue Boilermakers, Pat Chambers and the Penn State Nittany Lions (9-10, 0-6 in the Big Ten) will continue to search for their first conference win against the Nebraska Cornhuskers (9-8, 1-4 in the Big Ten) on Thursday. Nebraska, coming off a 68-62 upset victory over #17 Ohio State, will hope to duplicate the result from their last contest.

Prior to Monday’s game against the Buckeyes, the Big Ten certainly was not kind to Big Red.  After finishing the non-conference slate at 8-4, with the only notable wins coming over average Georgia and Miami (FL) squads, the Huskers lost their first four conference games. 

The win against Ohio State proved that head coach Tim Miles’s squad is capable of closing out close games.  With an 11-point lead at halftime, Nebraska played an effective second half and managed to take care of business at home against a ranked opponent.

On the court, Nebraska has experienced quite a bit of turnover from last season.  That being said, the new pieces of the rotation have developed well and contributed for the Huskers when called upon.

Nebraska’s offense is paced by sophomore, G/F Terran Petteway, who is averaging 17.4 points per game.  The Galveston, TX, native, began his career with the Texas Tech Red Raiders, but transferred to Nebraska after just one season.  Petteway has done it all this season for the Huskers, grabbing 5.3 rebounds per game, which is good for third on the team.  His 17.4 ppg ranks him fifth in the Big Ten in scoring.

While Petteway leads the Cornhuskers statistically, he is one of three tri-captains who lead the team on and off the court.  The other two Nebraska captains are senior guard Ray Gallegos, and sophomore forward Shavon Shields.

Gallegos is the only scholarship senior on Nebraska’s roster and has been a constant contributor throughout his collegiate career.  A sharpshooter capable of hurting teams with his range, Gallegos is a high-volume three-point shooter.  Last season, the shooting guard led the Big Ten in three-point attempts.  While he has not shot as many from deep this season, Gallegos’s 79 attempts lead the Cornhuskers, and constitute a 39.2% percentage (31-79). 

Shavon Shields is the son of legendary Nebraska football and Kansas City Chiefs offensive guard Will Shields; a member of both the College and Professional Football Hall of Fame.  Choosing to operate on the hardwood rather than the gridiron, Shavon has been very productive thus far in his young Cornhuskers career. 

Averaging 11.4 ppg and 5.5 rpg to this point in the season, the sophomore has had some big moments, scoring 28 in the season-opening contest against Florida Gulf Coast University to secure National Player of the Week honors.  Last season, in his freshman campaign, Shields scored a career-high 29 on 10-11 shooting, when the Cornhuskers hosted Penn State.

As a team that seems to be searching for their identity, Nebraska has seen significant contributions from the bench.  Rotation players like junior forward Leslee Smith, freshman guard Tai Webster, sophomore guard Benny Parker, and junior forward David Rivers, have all received considerable minutes.

For Penn State, Nebraska certainly seems to be the most beatable team in the Big Ten.  Statistically, the Nittany Lions edge the Cornhuskers in all of the major categories.  Penn State averages 76.1 ppg, 35.5 rpg, 12.5 apg, and has shot 45.1% from the field this season.  Contrast these numbers with the Nebraska marks of 69.3 ppg, 33.8 rpg, 9.9 apg, and a 43.2% field goal percentage, and it is clear Penn State has the edge on paper.

However, the Nittany Lions have been plagued by poor execution, especially since beginning Big Ten play.  As a team that has struggled to put together a full 40 minutes of solid play this year, it is hard to have any faith in the Chambers-led squad.

The one silver lining of Penn State’s dreadful Big Ten start has been their play at home.  In their contests against Michigan State, Minnesota, and Indiana, they showed moments of promise and looked capable of winning.  While the Nittany Lions played a poor second half against Michigan State, after the first 20 minutes they held a lead over the current #3 team in the country.

For Penn State to win against Nebraska on Thursday, they will need a complete performance and 40 strong minutes on the court.  Nebraska certainly seems beatable, and a win would move the Nittany Lions out of the basement of the Big Ten standings. 

Tipoff is scheduled for 8:00 p.m. at the Bryce Jordan Center. ComRadio’s coverage of the game begins with the Men’s Basketball Pregame Show at 7:30 p.m.

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

Photo Courtesy: (AP Photo/Doug McSchooler)