STATE COLLEGE – If Penn State is to make the late-season push that propels it to status as a cemented bubble team for next month’s NCAA tournament, it’s running out of chances to do so.
The Nittany Lions let another close one slip from their grasp as Nebraska defeated Penn State, 62-61, on Sunday at the Bryce Jordan Center.
Penn State dropped to 7-10 overall with the loss and is now 4-9 in Big Ten play.
Nebraska, meanwhile, earned its first conference win since Jan. 7, 2020. The win snaps a nine-game losing streak by the Cornhuskers.
“We just have to keep staying positive with these guys - that’s it,” Penn State interim coach Jim Ferry said. “It’s positive reinforcement. Getting back in the gym, getting the shots up, keep shooting.”
After playing to a 35-all tie at halftime, Nebraska built an 11-point lead in the second half behind a well-round offensive effort from the Cornhuskers in which seven players tallied points.
The Nittany Lions answered with a 12-2 run during the final 8:12 of the game as they mounted an attempt at a comeback.
Penn State’s Myreon Jones uncorked a 3-point attempt with his team trailing by three points with 1:58 left to play.
Jones’ arms brushed against his Nebraska defender as the shot left his fingers and rolled into the net as he picked himself up from the court.
Jones made the and-one attempt to give the Nittany Lions’ 62-61 lead.
A Penn State turnover via a steal from Nebraska’s Dalano Banton with just 20 seconds remaining in the game set up a fast-break layup by Teddy Allen that gave the Cornhuskers the two points needed to nab the road win.
“A lot of teams watch film just like we do,” Penn State’s Myles Dread said. “A lot of teams have been playing great defense, and also, we’ve been getting great shots I believe. Sometimes, the ball just doesn’t go in the basket... The only thing you can do about it is get back in the gym, go shoot a couple hundred shots like you do every other day. You can’t lose confidence in yourself; you can’t lose confidence in your teammates.”
The Nittany Lions received the basketball one final time with eight seconds left to play, but another Nebraska steal handed possession of the ball back to the Cornhuskers with just one second to play.
Penn State committed seven second-half turnovers.
The Nittany Lions’ second-half offense failed to gain traction from a first half in which they held a lead for all but nearly three minutes.
Jones provided the wattage for Penn State’s scoring offense and accumulated a game-high 12 points through the first 20 minutes to go with an assist and a rebound.
Banton gave the Cornhuskers their first lead of the game with a layup at the 1:49 mark in the first half to make the score 32-31. Teammate Yvan Ouedraogo followed with a layup to up Nebraska’s lead to three points.
Kobe Webster and Ouedraogo combined for 10 points apiece for the Cornhuskers in the first period.
Dread connected on his third 3-pointer of the first half with 12 seconds remaining in the first period to send the game into halftime with the score tied at 35.
Jones scored a game-high 18 points but only recorded six during the final 20 minutes. Dread ended with 14 points and Izaiah Brockington chipped in with 11 points.
The Nittany Lions only received a 10-point output from its bench.
Allen scored a team-high 14 points and six rebounds for Nebraska
Sunday’s loss marked the sixth time this season Penn State suffered a defeat by six or fewer points.
“I think we’ve really been executing,” Ferry said this season’s close endings. “I think the guys executed very, very well. We’ve gotten really good shots, we just haven’t made a shot. We do situations in practice all the time, and we do execute.”
Five games remain on Penn State’s regular-season schedule, three of which against ranked opponents in No. 13 Ohio State, at No. 4 Iowa and No. 17 Minnesota.
The Buckeyes visit Penn State at 8 p.m. on Thursday.
“We can’t let Nebraska beat us twice,” Dread said. “We did our best. I think we had a good week. We didn’t overlook this team at all. I think they outplayed us today. Of course it hurts. We going to get back in the gym and get better and move on to the next game.”
NEBRASKA 62, PENN STATE 61
Mayen 1-4 0-0 2, Walker 4-6 0-1 8, Allen 6-11 0-0 14, Banton 3-6 0-0 7, McGowens 4-9 1-1 10, Webster 5-12 0-0 13, Ouedraogo 2-4 0-1 4, Stevenson 1-1 0-0 2, Thorbjarnarson 0-1 0-0 0, Andre 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 27-56 1-3 62.
PENN ST. (7-10)
Harrar 1-5 4-4 6, Brockington 4-9 3-3 11, Dread 4-10 2-2 14, Jones 7-20 1-3 18, Wheeler 1-7 0-0 2, Lundy 3-9 0-0 8, Sessoms 1-3 0-0 2, Buttrick 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 21-65 10-12 61.
Halftime–35-35. 3-Point Goals–Nebraska 7-19 (Webster 3-8, Allen 2-4, Banton 1-2, McGowens 1-3, Mayen 0-2), Penn St. 9-31 (Dread 4-9, Jones 3-8, Lundy 2-6, Sessoms 0-1, Brockington 0-2, Wheeler 0-5). Rebounds–Nebraska 31 (Allen 6), Penn St. 33 (Harrar 11). Assists–Nebraska 19 (Banton 6), Penn St. 13 (Sessoms 3). Total Fouls–Nebraska 12, Penn St. 9. A–245 (15,261).