LINCOLN — When you are 0-5 in Big Ten men's basketball, you'll take good news anywhere you can get it.
That's why Nebraska got a boost Friday when senior starter Brandon Ubel, who has missed the past two games with an elbow fracture, boarded the team plane for Penn State.
The Nittany Lions (8-9, 0-5), the other winless Big Ten team, host NU (9-9, 0-5) at noon CST on Saturday. The schools tied for last in the league last season.
There are no guarantees Ubel, Nebraska's top rebounder and third-leading scorer, will play. How he reacts Saturday after Friday night's practice will determine that. He said his arm is about 80 percent to 85 percent healthy.
“But I was able to (fully extend) it yesterday and get some shots up,” Ubel said Friday before the trip. “So we'll see how it feels and go from there.”
Ubel was injured 11 days ago in Nebraska's 62-47 loss at Michigan. On a short shot in the lane, a Michigan defender bumped him while the arm was extended, which hyperextended the elbow and caused a small crack.
“It was kind of a freak deal,” he said.
While sitting out, Ubel has been at the coaching staff's side to provide assistance.
“I'm just trying to talk to the guys and let them know what I see,” he said. “You see things a little differently from the bench. You notice a little more.
“I'm trying to convey to them that, 'Hey, Coach isn't just saying the same things over and over again. You've got to do this.'”
Ubel said the pain from his injury doesn't necessarily come from bumping the injured joint.
“Most of it was using it, extending it, flexing it,” he said. “That's gone down day by day. The biggest issue was waiting for the swelling to go down so I could start using it.”
Ubel's absence created playing time for sophomore Jordan Tyrance.
The 6-foot-3 walk-on from Lincoln Southwest has taken advantage. In Wednesday's 65-56 loss to Purdue, Tyrance scored 10 points and grabbed seven rebounds. His career totals until then: one point and five rebounds.
“He did a great job,” NU coach Tim Miles said. “That's the kind of night you've got for your whole life. You can tell everybody, 'Yeah, we had Purdue here and I had 10 and 7.'
“That should be a cherished memory. But it shouldn't be your only one.”
Consistency has limited Tyrance's playing time up to now, and that was a problem in Thursday' practice.
“His first two passes were off the wall yesterday,” Miles said. “You've got to step up every day.”
Tyrance agreed that his focus and practice effort are points of emphasis.
“I'd like to think I've earned some playing time,” he said. “But I'm here to do whatever it takes for us to succeed. If that's playing because guys are hurt or practicing hard, that's fine.”
Penn State knows what games lost to injury mean to a higher degree than Nebraska.
Nittany Lions point guard Tim Frazier, a returning first-team All-Big Ten pick, suffered a torn Achilles tendon in the fourth game and is out for the season. He accounted for 58 percent of PSU's offense last season — a national high.
In his absence, Penn State has turned to guards D.J. Newbill and Jermaine Marshall.
Newbill, a sophomore transfer from Southern Mississippi, averages 15.6 points and 3.9 assists. Marshall, a junior, averages 15 points and 4.6 rebounds, and is coming off a career-high 29 points in an 81-72 loss to No. 22 Michigan State.
Nebraska and Penn State split two games last season, both winning at home.
“This is going to be a battle,” Tyrance said. “Penn State prides themselves on how hard they play also. Hopefully we can get a win.”
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