Penn State men’s basketball hung on to overcome 41 points from Teddy Allen en route to a 86-83 victory over Nebraska on Tuesday night in Lincoln for the Nittany Lions’ first Big Ten road victory of the year. Penn State is now 8-12 on the season.
It was Myreon Jones pacing Penn State early and often with 17 first-half points as the Nittany Lions more or less controlled the run of play, spending just over two minutes of the contest trailing and 30:41 with the lead. Allen scored 28 in the first half, a Nebraska program record but it wasn’t enough as Penn State led 39-38 at the break.
The irony, or perhaps hair-pulling truth for interim head coach Jim Ferry and his staff is that the Nittany Lions’ equation for victory has not been that complicated. They are well stocked with capable guards, John Harrar may not be the best big man in the nation but he might be the hardest working. In turn it has been less an issue of pure talent as it has been the ability to make timely shots and stops, something that has avoided Penn State in recent games.
Of course one might say these things are related to talent. LeBron James is more likely to make timely baskets because he is a better player, but given the Nittany Lions’ own performances over the past two seasons with many of the same players, it’s a matter of accessing that potential at the right moments.
And on Tuesday night they largely did just that. Jamari Wheeler continued to be a worthwhile three-point shooter, making three from beyond the arc while Jones made six of his own and Myles Dread added four of his own. Penn State would make 14 of its 37 attempts from deep, just enough to finish the job.
For comparison, Wheeler has made 23 shots from beyond the arc, one shy of his career total over the previous three seasons. He’s also shooting effectively at a 38% clip which may not make him the best perimeter shooter in the conference but certainly find him reliable enough for the make or three he has had this season. All told Wheeler has made two or more threes in seven different games this year.
“Work ethic, you know he really put in the time,” Ferry said after the game of Wheeler’s three-point shooting. “I said to you guys he earned the right to take those. He has worked extremely hard and has continued to all year. He’s earned the right to take those shots and he’s put the time in, and everybody trusts him.”
Penn State made shots all night long, a weak point in an otherwise capable offense. One brief drought aside, the Nittany Lions were able to avoid extended periods of cold shooting, and in turn while the Cornhuskers would push and cut Penn State’s lead to a single possession on multiple occasions, the Nittany Lions would respond with timely makes of their own.
Few bigger than Wheeler’s three with 5:59 to go to put the Nittany Lions ahead by three, a lead they would never relinquish.
By the night’s end Allen had a magical 41-point night but it wasn’t enough despite Nebraska shooting 53% from the field as Penn State had all five starters in double-figures in a far more balanced attack as John Harrar led the way on the boards with 14 rebounds.
Penn State will return home to face Purdue on Friday night the start out the final three game stretch of the regular season. A home game against Michigan is technically still postponed, although it seems increasingly unlikely it will be rescheduled. However that may change.