Game Grades: Men’s Basketball vs. Nebraska
No. 24 Penn State secured its fourth-straight win Saturday night, beating Nebraska 76-64 at Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln. The Nittany Lions improve to 16-5 overall and 6-4 in Big Ten play.
With the win, coach Patrick Chambers earned his first victory against the Cornhuskers. Let’s hand out grades to each of the units to see how they performed.
After a rough outing against Indiana Wednesday, the offensive unit looked like it was almost back to normal against the Cornhuskers. The ball movement and chemistry was there, as four players scored in double figures and senior Mike Watkins grabbed five offensive boards to give second life on crucial possessions.
Watkins and fellow senior Lamar Stevens recorded career milestones on the night, as Stevens’ 13 points on 6-of-11 shooting gave him 2,007 career points. Stevens became the third Nittany Lion to surpass the 2,000-point mark along with Talor Battle and Jesse Arnelle. Watkins’ aforementioned five offensive rebounds gave him 17 total and the all-time career record in rebounds for a Nittany Lion in Big Ten play.
But there were two aspects of the game that really separated it from being a true blowout against a dismal 7-15 squad. The most apparent was the ugly performance at the charity stripe, as the Nittany Lions went 6-14 in their free throw attempts. The team also turned the ball over 16 times, tied for the second highest number this season.
Although sophomore guard Myles Dread didn’t pile numbers on the stat sheet, he played incredibly smart basketball down the stretch. His 4-10 shooting from behind the arc looks disappointing, but his makes came in crucial situations to give his squad momentum. His hustle on fast breaks was apparent and rewarding, as he put pressure on defenders to back away from the man with the ball.
It wasn’t perfect, but the offense did seem like it was on the same page throughout the contest. However, it’ll still need to improve if they hope to go far in this year’s NCAA Tournament.
The Nebraska offense seemed to go on surges throughout the contest that were dictated less by a hole in the Penn State defense, and more by momentum or just luck. Watkins’ 12 defensive boards and two blocks, along with five team steals led to a solid night for a unit that has kept this team in games throughout the season.
The Cornhuskers struggled to find a rhythm thanks to Watkins’ menacing presence down low. Nebraska, at times, found ways to bring Watkins out to the perimeter on switches, where he looked immensely uncomfortable. However, the Nittany Lions looked prepared for those situations and responded well to them. Stevens filled the gap nicely, recording two blocks of his own.
With the offense still recovering from a dry spell, the defense will have to maintain its consistency as Penn State continues its tough conference schedule down the stretch.
As always, Chambers showed off his impressive leadership skills on the sideline. When his team was struggling, he was there to boost their confidence and prevent them from slipping.
Chambers’ decision to start freshman Seth Lundy, since January 15 at Minnesota, has led some people to scratch their heads, especially after Saturday night. The forward didn’t show much of a presence on either end, and he put up just five points on 2-5 shooting. He obviously has the potential to be the leader of this team in the future, but for now, Chambers may want to think about sitting him to start games.
Jack McCune is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.