The Nittany Lions started cold against Nebraska, but thanks to some rotation changes and an adjusted strategy they were able to pull away in the second half for a 76-65 win.
Offense was hard to come by for both teams in the first half. The Nittany Lions only hit 10 shots and shot 33% from the field in that half while Nebraska hit 8 on 35% leading to a 29-23 first half lead for Penn State. Penn State took 20 threes compared to just 10 twos, and while the percentage on those shots was a respectable 35%, the offense was just way too one dimensional to get into any type of rhythm. Two big halftime adjustments helped to change that.
Out of halftime the Nittany Lions looked like a new team. They made a great effort to not settle for jumpers and get all the way to the rim. Pickett, Wynter, and Clary were able to get deep in the paint to draw defenders in and either get a shot for themselves or their teammates. The other big change was, after a short time with Dorsey in the ball game, going small with Dread or Lundy operating as the small-ball center. This really spread the court and allowed the ball handlers to take their defenders 1 on 1 and then make decisions based on how aggressive the help defense was.
On defense the Nittany Lions mostly left each other on islands, trusting everyone to handle their individual matchup without much help. This allowed the defense to stay attached to shooters and made Nebraska’s looks from that range very tough. This worked out well for the most part, holding the Cornhuskers to 65 points and 27% from deep. The one flaw with this strategy was senior big man Derrick Walker who finished with 20 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists. He was just a hub of offense all night, scoring strong inside and finding his teammates when we did over help against him. Besides a couple deep threes from junior guard Keisei Tominaga and a few strong finishes from senior guard Sam Griesel the Nebraska offense just really could not get much going.
Jalen Pickett had another strong overall game, scoring 12 points on only 8 shots, dishing out 5 assists, and grabbing a very impressive 13 boards. Uncharacteristically however, Pickett racked up 7 turnovers by the time the game ended. Nebraska sent doubles all day at Jalen and he had trouble adjusting to it at times. Andrew Funk had a impressive offensive day, hitting 5 threes and scoring 23 in total. Freshman guard Kanye Clary got his most significant playing time of the year in this one and responded really well to it. He played 19 minutes where he scored 6 points and got 3 assists. Most of his minutes came in the second half where he was key in the adjusted strategy of attacking defenders 1 on 1 and getting to the rim.
Penn State will try to carry the momentum of this win into Piscataway when they face off against #23 Rutgers Tuesday, January 24th at 6:30 PM on the Big Ten Network