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Penn State Basketball: Nittany Lions Survive And Advance With OT Win Over Nebraska

by on March 08, 2017 8:00 PM

You've seen this game before.

It was close all the way to the end, but this time Penn State won, this time in overtime against Nebraska 76-67.

The Nittany Lions started off well as Tony Carr opened the game with a 3-of-3 opening salvo and Penn State pushed out to an early lead. Nebraska struggled on both end of the floor as the Nittany Lions made the most of solid shooting and stout defense to take an eventual 15-8 lead with just under 15 minutes to go in the first half.

Five minutes later that margin ballooned to 11-points as Lamar Stevens hit a deep three and Mike Watkins started off on one of the most impressive nights of his young career.

But things, for a handful of reasons, are never this easy for Penn State. So it was hardly surprise when Nebraska's offense found its stroke and the Nittany Lions cooled off. Suddenly an 11-point margin was just two points and then a tie game at 30-30 with 4:24 to go in the half.

To Penn State's credit, Nebraska never led, in fact the Cornhuskers didn't lead for a single second on Wednesday afternoon and at the half it was the Nittany Lions holding on to a 38-33 advantage.

The second half was effectively more of the same, flashes of what Penn State's freshman can be and the realities of what they currently are. Carr opened the game hot but struggled offensively most of the way, Lamar Stevens made timely contributions but battled foul trouble. It was Watkins ultimately that was the anchor on both ends finishing with 18 points, 10 rebounds and a Big Ten Tournament record eight blocks. Shots he didn't block he altered and his touch in close was effective the entire night.

Even so Penn State's 10-point lead with 11:02 to play never turned into the blowout it seemed destined to become. Nebraska hung around and the Nittany Lions cooled yet again, and the lead eventually shrank to five points with 4:01 to play.

From there it was nearly every Penn State game this season. The Nittany Lions hung on by a thread, seemingly a single basket from a knockout blow. A basket that with 55 seconds tied the game and had Penn State reeling from the punch.

But the knockout never came. Carr's turnover with just over two seconds to play gave Nebraska the ball and a chance to win it, but the long heave didn't fall and the Nittany Lions headed to overtime in a season full of close losses, perhaps preparing for one more.

The loss never came and Penn State will play on Thursday in the Big Ten Tournament.

An early three by Stevens opened the overtime period and free throws by Josh Reaves extended that margin to five points. Nebraska's struggling offense continued to do just that and Penn State pushed ahead by 10 points thanks in large part to free throws down the stretch. 

Shep Garner finished with 4-of-7 shooting from beyond the arc and Watkins' record-setting 18 point, 10 rebound, eight block night was one for the books. Stevens' quiet 16-point and crucial rebounds rounded out another night of standout freshman play.

It wasn't always pretty, but nobody said it had to be.

And so the Nittany Lions survive and advance to a 2:30 date with Michigan State. 

Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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