No. 24 Penn State 76, Nebraska 64: Lions Subdue Huskers with Dominating Second Half

By Eric Gibson on February 2, 2020 at 9:57 am
Lamar Stevens
Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports
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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 38 38 76
Nebraska 33 31 64

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. 

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