You just never know in college basketball sometimes. On a day where eight Top-25 teams lost, the Nittany Lions took care of business against Nebraska by a score of 76-64. With a really long roadtrip against a lowly opponent who can light it up from three, Pat Chambers said afterwards this was a scary game. But his players relieved those fears with a dominating performance after halftime and avoided an ugly blemish on their team sheet.
The game was not nearly as close as the final score, as PSU opened up a 68-46 lead at the under-8 media timeout. Their 30-11 run to open the second period turned a 5-point halftime lead into a rout for the Nittany Lions' first ever victory in Pinnacle Bank Arena.
|1st half||2nd half||Final|
Penn State received balanced production from the whole rotation, as Myles Dread lead the way with 14 points, including four made threes. After coming in a woeful 9-39 from beyond the arc in Big Ten play, Dread's 4-10 outburst from the perimeter was a welcomed sight.
Lamar Stevens scored his 2,000th point in the first half on another bullying drive to the rim, as he finished with 13 points and 5 rebounds. He became the third Nittany Lion in program history to reach the milestone, alongside Talor Battle and Jesse Arnelle. Stevens is now 206 points behind Battle's all-time leading mark of 2,213. With at least 12 games remaining, there's a great chance Stevens catches Battle.
Mike Watkins recorded his sixth double-double of the season with 11 points and 17 rebounds in just 21 minutes. His presence was enormous in the second half as he single-handedly shut down the paint. While 'Swatkins' was only credited with two blocks, he surely altered many others and was a vacuum on the glass.
The game didn't get off to a great start for Penn State, as Nebraska jumped on the Lions early. Haanif Cheatham caught fire and scored 10 quick points as the Huskers got up 13-7. However, Penn State was able to take command behind some good three-point shooting, as even Jamari Wheeler hit two early ones. But Nebraska's zone was intended to clog the paint and force the Lions into settling for 20 first half three-point attempts. While they made seven of them, Pat Chambers was not happy with the shot selection in the first period.
The Nits came out of the break and made a concerted effort to attack the rim with great results. Watkins threw down three emphatic dunks, while John Harrar pitched in another 6 points. Penn State would've been even more productive if they didn't have another poor outing from the free throw line (6-14, 43 percent).
Penn State now moves to 6-4 in the Big Ten, a stellar mark at the halfway point. The conversation should officially move from "Will this team make the NCAA tournament?" to "Where will they be seeded?" and "Can they earn a double-bye for the Big Ten tournament?" Get this - if Illinois loses on the road to Iowa this afternoon, the Lions will be one game out of FIRST PLACE in the loss column.
A massive road test awaits Penn State as they travel to East Lansing Tuesday night to take on the Michigan State Spartans.