Penn State Looks to End Road Struggles in Bout With Nebraska
With nine games left on the regular season schedule, the Nittany Lions have entered do-or-die territory with each and every remaining trip to the court.
Sitting in the middle of the pack of the Big Ten at 5-6, Penn State’s bout in Nebraska on Sunday looms large on any hopes to continue playing in the month of March.
The blue and white are coming off of a dreadful 20-point loss on the road to No. 1 Purdue, a game defined by a 21-2 Boilermakers’ run amid an ice-cold shooting night for Penn State.
“Best team in the country,” head coach Micah Shrewsberry said following his squad’s 80-60 defeat. “Best player in the country, best coach in the country.”
As Penn State exits what many considered to be the “gauntlet” of its regular-season slate, Sunday’s battle with a struggling Nebraska team presents a wide-open opportunity to gain momentum into the final stretch of the year.
The Cornhuskers are amid a free fall in the Big Ten standings, losing each of their last four contests and dropping to 3-9 in the process.
Each of these four losses have come by a margin of at least 11 points, with Nebraska averaging a measly 62 points per game during this stretch.
However, with Penn State’s road struggles more prevalent than ever, Shrewsberry and the Nittany Lions will once again be center stage in a hostile environment with their backs against the wall.
The Nittany Lions have yet to find their footing outside of the Bryce Jordan Center, dropping six of seven away contests this season. The last two road trips have been especially ugly, losing by exactly 20 points on both occasions.
With both teams coming into Sunday’s game with distinctive struggles, one factor in particular could prove to be the tipping point: home-court advantage.
While the Cornhuskers haven’t had a whole lot to smile about as of late, Pinnacle Bank Arena has posed itself as a raucous territory to its opponents all season long. Nebraska holds a 7-3 record in front of its own crowd, as opposed to a 2-8 mark when on the road.
Time will tell if home-court advantage will be enough to turn the tides for Nebraska after falling to Penn State earlier this year by a score of 76-65, a loss that triggered the Cornhuskers’ four-game skid.
This early-January contest was dominated by senior guard Andrew Funk, who put up a game-high 23 points on 8-of-13 shooting and five knockdowns from beyond the arc.
On the other side of the court, Nebraska’s offense was dead silent outside of senior forward Derrick Walker, whose nine field goals matched the combined sum of the remaining starters.
Funk may once again be the X-factor of this rematch, as his Nittany Lions are a flawless 4-0 in Big Ten action when he scores 20 or more points. When he fails to reach that mark, the blue and white are just 1-6.
Meanwhile, junior guard Keisei Tominaga has burst onto the scene for the Cornhuskers as of late, averaging 13 points per game over the last six outings.
Tominaga typically appears off the bench as a spark plug, but Nebraska could certainly look to utilize his sharpshooting abilities early and often against the Nittany Lions.
Tipoff is set for 4:30 p.m. on Big Ten Network, with both teams hungry to get back into the win column.
Grant Sheets is a sophomore majoring in public relations. To contact him, please email email@example.com.
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