GAME NOTES: The two worst teams in the Big Ten Conference meet for the second time this season, as the Penn State Nittany Lions take on the Nebraska Cornhuskers at the Devaney Center in Lincoln.
The Nittany Lions are winless in 2013, having lost 10 straight games to start the new year, all in conference. Their most recent defeat was a 58-49 decision to Purdue at home on Tuesday night. PSU is firmly entrenched in last place in the Big Ten, sitting two games behind Nebraska.
Nebraska has dropped two straight and eight of its last 10, the latest being a 63-56 loss at home to No. 11 Ohio State last Saturday. As a result, the Huskers are 11-12 overall and 2-8 in conference.
The all-time series between these two teams is knotted at 6-6. The Cornhuskers won at Penn State earlier this season in a 68-64 decision that came down to the final minutes. In that contest, Nebraska shot a perfect 16-of-16 from the free-throw line, while PSU managed to make just 15-of-24 at the charity stripe.
The Purdue Boilermakers outlasted the Nittany Lions, 58-49, on Tuesday night at the Bryce Jordan Center. For PSU, D.J. Newbill led all scorers with 17 points, while adding seven assists. Ross Travis tallied eight points and eight boards for the Nittany Lions. Neither team shot greater than 36 percent from the floor in the first half, but Penn State was able to take a 25-24 lead into halftime and held Purdue without a 3-pointer in the half. The game remained close until midway through the second half when the Boilermakers broke a 33-33 tie by ripping off a 16-4 run, and they never relinquished the lead from that moment on.
Penn State's offensive production this season has been virtually non-existent. They are scoring just 60.7 ppg, second only to Nebraska for worst in the conference, while sitting at the bottom of the league in field goal percentage (.385). The Nittany Lions rely a bit too much on one-on-one play on offense as they rank last in the Big Ten and among the 10 worst teams in the country in assists (9.3 pg). At the defensive end, Penn State is letting up a league- worst 67.0 points per game on 42.4 percent shooting. Newbill (15.7 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 4.0 apg) has been one of the more versatile players not only for Penn State, but in the conference as a whole. The 6-foot-4 guard is among the top 16 players in scoring, assists and rebounds. Jermaine Marshall (14.7 ppg) is the only other player on the team averaging in double figures.
A strong second-half effort wasn't enough to lift Nebraska to an upset of 11th-ranked Ohio State, as the Huskers dropped a seven-point decision to the Buckeyes last Saturday. David Rivers led three Huskers in double figures with 13 points, including 11 in the second half, while Dylan Talley and Ray Gallegos chipped in 12 and 11 points, respectively. The Huskers whittled down a 15-point deficit to five and had a chance to make it a one-possession game several times in the final minutes but were unable to convert. Despite outrebounding OSU (38-33), Nebraska was able to get to the line just five times, while the Buckeyes finished the night 23-of-28 from the stripe.
Despite having three double-digit scorers on the roster, Nebraska is the lowest scoring team in the conference (58.7 ppg), as it connects on only 41.5 percent of its field goal attempts, including 30.1 percent from long range. The Cornhuskers have performed better at the defensive end against most opponents, yielding just 62.3 ppg. The team is in the red in rebounding margin (-2.3), but just over the break-even point in turnovers (+0.26). Gallegos (13.3 ppg, 3.3 rpg), Talley (13.0 ppg, 5.2 rpg) and Brandon Ubel (11.8 ppg, 6.8 rpg) do their best to put Nebraska in position to win, but they can't do it alone.
Both of these squads struggle to put points on the board, so expect a low- scoring affair. Given that its a home game and that they are playing marginally better, the nod goes to Nebraska
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