Penn State was less than sharp throughout Saturday afternoon in the Bryce Jordan Center against Nebraska but still had a chance to win the game at the free-throw line in the final minute. The Nittany Lions missed their final five free-throw attempts, though, and lost 68-64 to the Cornhuskers, their sixth straight defeat. Penn State (8-10, 0-6 Big Ten) shot 39 percent from the field, 25 percent from 3-point range and 63 percent from the line.
Ross Travis had eight points Saturday but missed a pair of free throws in the final minute.
Top performers: Jermaine Marshall led the Nittany Lions with 18 points, all coming in the second half. D.J. Newbill had 11 points, seven rebounds and six assists.
Freshman Shavon Shields had 29 points for Nebraska (10-9, 1-5), hitting 10 of 11 shots from the floor. Ray Gallegos added 15 points and Brandon Ubel had 12 points and six rebounds off the bench.
What went right: Penn State erased a double-digit second-half deficit with some streaky offense and improved (or opportunistic) defense. The Nittany Lions enjoyed a 36-27 rebounding advantage against the taller Cornhuskers and grabbed 14 offensive rebounds. Penn State finally got some modest production from role players Ross Travis (eight points, all in the second half) and Nick Colella (six points), and Marshall had another terrific second half, with 18 points.
What went wrong: Any offensive momentum the Nittany Lions had after scoring 72 points against Michigan State on Wednesday vanished; they shot 36 percent in a 28-point first half, which included another buzzer-beating, desperation 3-pointer (this one from Kevin Montminy). Penn State had no defensive answer for Shields, who got shots from anywhere he wanted and found his way to the free-throw line (eight times) on the rare occasions he missed. Taylor had another strong first half of offense then disappeared in the second half, missing his only field goal attempt, despite managing to avoid foul trouble. Newbill and Marshall once again had to do most of the lifting on offense themselves.
Statworthy: Nebraska was a perfect 16-of-16 at the free-throw line. The Nittany Lions had made 15 of their first 19 free-throw attempts (78.9 percent) Saturday before missing their last five. … Donovon Jack saw action for the first time in three games, but the only stats he registered in three minutes were one personal foul and one turnover. … Six-foot-11, 314-pound Nebraska center Andre Almeida started but played just nine minutes and had no points and three rebounds. … Nebraska had 12 fast-break points; the Nittany Lions had two.
Quotable: "He almost had a triple double. I just informed him he had six turnovers too. You've got to keep those freshmen aligned." -- Nebraska coach Tim Miles on freshman forward Shavon Shields, who had 29 points and six rebounds against Penn State
"It didn't come down to the free throws. We didn't play hard enough the whole game." -- Penn State guard D.J. Newbill
"Half my huddles are pumping them up and motivating and pushing them and driving them. I wish they were more Xs and Os." -- Penn State coach Patrick Chambers
"There's progress. I don't know if you guys see it. I see it. We need to continue that progress. They can't feel sorry for themselves." -- Chambers
Summary: The Nittany Lions basically gave the game away at the free-throw line in the final seconds but, as both Chambers and Newbill said after the game, hadn't done much in the first 39 minutes to deserve to beat a not-very-good Nebraska team. The Cornhuskers had wide-open looks all afternoon and Penn State settled for too many forced jumpers or drives into traffic. The progress that Chambers spoke of in the postgame press conference is there but you have to look for it and the Nittany Lions are making more than enough mistakes to cancel out that progress on game nights. Until this young team learns to get out of its own way, it is not going to be able to hang with its conference rivals -- even, as it showed Saturday, its less formidable conference rivals.
Up next: The Nittany Lions will visit No. 2 Indiana at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Bloomington's Assembly Hall.
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