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Nittany Lions' comeback ends Huskers' season
Basketball: Penn State 72, Nebraska 66

Nittany Lions' comeback ends Huskers' season

INDIANAPOLIS—The Nebraska men’s basketball team will have a blown halftime lead to chew on for the entire offseason.

One of NU’s best first halves of the season dissipated into a season-ending 72-66 loss to Penn State Thursday night in the Big Ten tournament. Nebraska coughed up a 14-point halftime lead with a series of turnovers and costly fouls that fueled the Nittany Lions, which outscored NU 23-9 from the free throw line for the game.

The Huskers finished 7-20 in a long, strange COVID-interrupted season that included a four-week pause in play, followed by four furious weeks of basketball against the best league in college basketball. Penn State improved to 11-13 overall and advanced to the second round of the Big Ten tournament, where it will face sixth-seeded Wisconsin.

Nebraska was led by Trey McGowens (13 points, four rebounds, four assists), Derrick Walker (eight points, seven rebounds and six assists), Thor Thorbjarnarson (12 points) and Kobe Webster (12 points). The latter two, both seniors, both have options to return for next year due to NCAA COVID allowances but may also have played their final games as Huskers. Dalano Banton added seven points.

Penn State’s Jamari Wheeler (19 points) led all scorers, while forward John Harrar battered NU on the boards for the third time this season with 14 rebounds. PSU had 14 offensive rebounds and 12 second-chance points off of them.

After a sluggish shooting start for both teams, Nebraska found its long-range touch in a big way, hitting six first-half 3-pointers, including back-to-back trios from Thorbjarnarson that sparked a 12-0 run midway through the first half and gave the Huskers a 20-8 lead. When PSU cut that to 26-18 with 6:27 left, Nebraska went on a 7-0 run with two layups from Walker and a Thorbjarnarson 3-pointer.

One key: Walker, avoiding foul trouble, distributing four first- half assists to go with four points and four rebounds. Walker consistently anchored the post, drew attention to him, and kicked out to open shooters for 3s. Penn State’s offense, meanwhile, largely remained stagnant while committing 10 first-half turnovers. The Nittany Lions shot 28.1% in the opening 20 minutes – 13.3% from 3-point range.

Nebraska’s 14-point halftime lead was its second-largest of the Big Ten season. Penn State quickly cut into it after scoring eight points on its first three possessions of the second half. PSU’s 10-0 run was stopped by a Kobe Webster jumper, but the damage had been done, especially in the fouls department: The Nittany Lions were in the bonus with 13:18 left in the game – McGowens went to the bench with his fourth foul at that moment—and they made 20 of 24 second half free throws.

Penn State took its first lead of the second half with two Izaiah Brockington free throws at the 9:27 mark. From there, the game remained tight, with both defenses digging in against one another. Dalano Banton scored seven straight points on three layups and a free throw. Walker tied the game at 59 with two free throws. But PSU guard Myles Dread – after struggling all night – hit a crucial 3-points to give his team a 63-59 lead with 2:48 left. Penn State held off Nebraska down the stretch by hitting its free throws and relying on NU’s misses. The Huskers shot just 33.3% from the field and 18.8% from 3 in the second half.

Notes

Husker coach Fred Hoiberg is now 7-5 in conference tournament games, with an 0-2 record at Nebraska and a 7-3 record at Iowa State.

PENN ST. 72, NEBRASKA 66

NEBRASKA

FG FT Reb

Min M-A M-A O-T A PF PTS

Mayen 30 3-10 0-0 1-3 1 3 7

Walker 31 3-6 2-3 5-7 6 4 8

McGowens 23 4-8 4-5 0-4 4 4 13

Thorbjarnarson 34 4-9 0-0 0-3 1 4 12

Webster 34 4-14 2-2 0-2 0 3 12

Banton 27 3-8 1-1 0-4 2 4 7

Lakes 13 2-4 0-0 0-2 0 0 5

Andre 8 1-1 0-0 0-0 0 1 2

Totals 200 24-60 9-11 6-25 14 23 66

Percentages: FG .400, FT .818.

3-Point Goals: 9-33, .273 (Thorbjarnarson 4-8, Webster 2-9, Lakes 1-3, McGowens 1-4, Mayen 1-6, Banton 0-3).

Team Rebounds: 4.

Team Turnovers: None.

Blocked Shots: 4 (Banton, Mayen, Thorbjarnarson, Walker).

Turnovers: 14 (Thorbjarnarson 5, Banton 2, Mayen 2, Walker 2, Webster 2, McGowens).

Steals: 8 (McGowens 3, Webster 2, Banton, Mayen, Walker).

Technical Fouls: None.

PENN ST.

FG FT Reb

Min M-A M-A O-T A PF PTS

Harrar 24 2-5 1-2 4-14 4 4 5

Brockington 26 3-7 8-8 2-7 0 1 14

Dread 33 1-7 0-0 0-0 1 2 3

Jones 30 4-11 3-4 0-2 3 4 14

Wheeler 35 6-13 4-6 2-6 3 1 19

Lundy 22 2-8 2-3 3-7 1 2 6

Buttrick 16 0-1 0-0 1-4 2 2 0

Sessoms 14 3-7 5-6 1-2 1 1 11

Totals 200 21-59 23-29 13-42 15 17 72

Percentages: FG .356, FT .793.

3-Point Goals: 7-27, .259 (Jones 3-6, Wheeler 3-8, Dread 1-7, Buttrick 0-1, Sessoms 0-2, Lundy 0-3).

Team Rebounds: 4.

Team Turnovers: None.

Blocked Shots: 2 (Buttrick 2).

Turnovers: 14 (Lundy 3, Sessoms 3, Brockington 2, Buttrick 2, Harrar 2, Dread, Wheeler).

Steals: 10 (Sessoms 4, Brockington 2, Jones 2, Lundy, Wheeler).

Technical Fouls: None.

Nebraska 37 29 — 66

Penn St. 23 49 — 72

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