Penn State Basketball: Nittany Lions Hold Off Late Charge To Beat Nebraska 56-43
With 5:25 left to go in regulation Penn State basketball reached a crossroads.
The Nittany Lions had led by 20 points, but now they were only up by three. A single basket stood between them and a tie.
Being in a close game is nothing new for them. Being in a tight game in the final minutes was nothing new. But puling off the victory in one of these close games had become a rarity in Big Ten play.
So the big question remained. Would Penn State fire back and close out a game it controlled for so long, or crumple under the pressure of Nebraska's oncoming wave of offense.
The answer -- a 10-2 run by Penn State to close out the game and pick up a third Big Ten victory on the year. It was a sweet win. The Nittany Lions avoided collapse and found the ability to push past the pending heartbreak and pick up a victory.
"We can respond and we can punch back," Head coach Pat Chambers said after the game. "Shep Garner hit huge three-point shots. He is a freshman who stepped up and hit big time shots. I thought D.J. Newbill’s dives and rebounds were really good. You saw a senior who laid it all out there.
"Maybe it wasn’t his biggest night in scoring, but he was all over the floor the last two, three minutes of the game. D.J. [Newbill] was not going to let his team lose. I thought Geno Thorpe did some good things and Devin Foster’s lay-up was huge for him because he came in a little rattled but that settled everything down. There is so much you can learn from that experience and then show how we are growing and getting more mature."
If anything, Penn State's game against Nebraska was similar to the Nittany Lions road game against Rutgers. It was a chance to win a game where the flow was slow, the shots didn't always fall and there was no rhythm. While facing a different team, Penn State responded to the challenge with a lot more poise than when facing Rutgers.
The Nittany Lions stuck to their defense and made shots along the way in the first half.
The result was a 22-13 halftime lead that was equal parts survival and Nebraska's inability to produce any kind of offensive structure for much of the half.
Either way it was a nine point halftime lead to sit on. The Nittany Lions came out to warmup and shoot nearly five minutes before the second half started.
And the Nittany Lions came flying out of the gates, turning a nine point margin into a 20 point advantage within the first five minutes of the second half.
From there, the Cornhuskers slowly chipped away and Penn State turnovers coupled with a cold shooting spell kept Nebraska within reach. A Terran Petteway three cutting the lead to only three with just over five to go.
With 1:47 left, Shep Garner pulled up and nailed a long three, turning a seven point advantage into a 10 point margin. Penn State defended and rebounded the rest of the way, and Nebraska would get no closer than eight points in the final stretch.
It was ugly, but in its own way for Penn State it was perfect. The Nittany Lions answered the bell, getting points when they needed them from all across the roster. DJ Newbill finished the night with 11 points but the 14 and 11 point outings by Geno Thorpe and Brandon Taylor helped pave the way to victory.
If anything, Saturday evening was a reminder that when wins can be hard to come by, it doesn't matter how you get them as long as you do.
And for a team that has lost games it could have won, just winning is a second victory all on its own.
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