There have been plenty of times throughout this season that it seemed as if Penn State had hit rock bottom. The latest came in tonight’s 67-53 loss to the Cornhuskers in Lincoln. No stat sums up the night better than this: with less than a minute to play, the Lions had turned the ball over 13 times, to just 12 made field goals. The loss is of course PSU’s 11th straight, and has them staring a winless conference season squarely in the face with a difficult schedule down the stretch.
Believe it or not, things didn’t start off too poorly for PSU, as they used an aggressive offense and solid free throw shooting to lead 15-11 about halfway through the opening half. Warnings signs were apparent though. Following a Sasa Borovnjak jumper with 13:29 to play, the Lions would go over 11 minutes before scoring from the field, on another Borovnjak jumper. In between, the Lions would score 13 straight points from the free throw line. For the half, PSU was 15 of 21 from the charity stripe. Those 15 free throws kept them in game, in spite of 5 of 25 shooting from the field, trailing only 33-26 at the break. D.J. Newbill lead the way with 6 points, all of which came from the free throw line. Borovnjak added 5. Alan Wisniewski, who drew his first action of the season, played with great intensity and added 4 points in the first half.
Things got out of hand quickly in the second half, as Nebraska began to find an offensive rhythm,, while PSU continued to find everything but the basket en route to an 12-2 Nebraska run to start the half that essentially ended the game. The Lions would not come closer than 12 points the rest of the way.
Penn State ended up 14 for 48 from the field, with a late flurry saving them from the dubious “more turnovers than made shots” mark. Newbill ended the night with 17 points, but it came on 4 of 14 shooting. Jermaine Marshall again struggled from the floor (3 of 10), but did go a perfect 8 of 8 from the free throw line to finish with 16 points. Wisniewski, the sophomore forward from Sterling Heights, Michigan scored the first 6 points of his career, and grabbed 8 rebounds in an energetic performance off the bench. No offense to Alan, but 6 points, 8 boards and high energy should not be the bright side of a PSU basketball game. Nebraska was led by Dylan Talley’s 16 points.
Penn State has just 7 regular season games, and the Big 10 tournament left to avoid the first winless conference season in program history. With two games against top 5 Michigan, and trips to Champaign and Minneapolis, Thursday’s home date versus Iowa could be PSU’s best chance the rest of the way.
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