Long offensive droughts.
A huge halftime deficit.
A double-digit loss.
It is too familiar for the Penn State women’s basketball team.
The Lady Lions committed 17 first-half turnovers, fell behind by 16 points at the break and could not recover in the second half of a 73-45 loss to No. 17 Nebraska on Thursday.
The defeat was the seventh straight for the three-time defending Big Ten champions (3-14), who fell to 0-6 in conference play. Candice Agee was the only Penn State player to reach double figures with 13 points. Leading scorer Lindsey Spann, who had reached double figures in all but one previous game this season, was held scoreless in 19 minutes.
Freshman Natalie Romeo, starting her first career game, had 18 points to lead Nebraska (13-3, 3-2). Romeo nailed six of the Cornhuskers’ 11 3-pointers.
Turnovers were once again a big story for the Lady Lions, who came in averaging 24.6 in Big Ten play. They committed 24 against the Cornhuskers, who converted them into 28 points, 22 in the first half.
“The turnovers killed us,” Penn State coach Coquese Washington said. “If we’re going to score more points, we’ve got to do a better job taking care of the ball. ... When you have live turnovers, they are usually going to result in transition baskets and fastbreak opportunities. That’s why we have to do a better job of taking care of the ball and not putting ourselves in that position.”
The offense was also hampered because Spann was suffering the effects of the flu. The freshman, whose 17.6 scoring average in Big Ten play led the Lady Lions, was 0 for 3 from the floor. She spent much of the second half on the bench wearing a jacket.
“She tried to play through it, but obviously she wasn’t herself,” Washington said. “... It certainly was an impact. Lindsey gives us a big lift when she’s healthy, vibrant and able to get up-and-down the floor. It makes a difference for us.”
The Lady Lions went scoreless for the first five minutes and never led in the contest. Nebraska also started slowly and led 5-4 before going on a 14-2 run over three minutes to take control.
Penn State got within 19-12 on two free throws by Kaliyah Mitchell with 9:17 left in the half, but a 7-0 run put the Cornhuskers ahead by 14. Penn State never got closer than there.
Romeo made three 3-pointers in the half as the Cornhuskers made six. Her previous career high was eight points and two 3-pointers. Several of her baskets came on via forward Emily Cady, who had six of the team’s 21 assists.
“She really hurt us with her threes,” Washington said. “They did a good job of finding her.
“They’re a tough matchup,” Washington added. “They have some mismatches in the post in terms of Cady being able to drive and take our posts off the dribble. You have to help and they did a good job in finding Romeo both in zone and man on the weakside.”
Tear’a Laudermill had five points as Nebraska opened the second half with a 7-0 run to push the lead to 45-22. The Lady Lions never threatened from there.
Agee, who fouled out late, finished 6 for 12 from the floor.
“I think she certainly started to develop a rhythm and confidence,” Washington said of Agee. “She’s working hard to get the ball and we’re doing the best we can to get her touches. When she gets touches she has a pretty good ability to finish.”
Penn State also got lifts from Keke Sevillian and Mitchell. Sevillian tied a career high with nine points and Mitchell added eight points and 12 rebounds.
“Keke hit some big shots,” Washington said. “Kaliyah came into the game and gave us a lift. She hit a couple of shots and did a great job on the boards.”
Penn State shot just 34 percent (18 of 53) for the game.
Laudermill had 12 points and five steals for the Cornhuskers, who shot 45 percent (28 of 62) from the floor. Nebraska made 11 3-pointers, outscoring Penn State 33-6 from beyond the arc.
Penn State returns to action at Ohio State at 2 p.m. on Sunday. Despite 36 points from freshman sensation Kelsey Mitchell, the Buckeyes (11-6, 3-2) fell 76-72 to Minnesota on Thursday.
Notes: Nebraska improved to 3-5 all-time against Penn State. ... The Lady Lions have been outscored 238-151 in the first half of Big Ten games. ... Penn State has been held to 53 points or less in five of its conference losses.