Penn State couldn’t crack Nebraska’s smothering defense.
The Lions scuffled through a miserable first half, shooting 25.8 percent from the field and managing just two points on a pair of free throws in the final 5:35. Tim Frazier and D.J. Newbill, trying to carry the offensive load once again, went 4-for-17 from the field combined.
The troubling half saw Penn State’s final possession fittingly end in a shot-clock violation when the star guards failed to make something happen. Frazier had nothing on an initial drive and tossed it back to Newbill at the top of the key. Newbill, left with no space and no other options, chucked up an air ball with the clock winding down.
It didn’t get much better for the Lions in the second half as Nebraska cruised to an 80-67 victory in Big Ten play at Pinnacle Bank Arena on Thursday night. The Huskers (15-10, 7-6) led by as many as 27 points in the second half and finished 37-for-48 from the foul line.
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Frazier and Newbill each scored 17 points to pace Penn State, but both struggled from the field as part of the Lions’ 34.9 percent performance. Penn State (13-14, 4-10) had four technical fouls in the loss. Brandon Taylor was called for two, leading to his ejection, and coach Patrick Chambers and Ross Travis were each assessed one.
“Look, I have great respect for the officials. I mean, 48 free throws, wow,” Chambers said. “I give Nebraska a lot of credit. They're a hot team right now. We knew they were a hot team and we had to play at a high level and we didn't get it done. You can't blame it on the officials. We have to hit some shots.”
Terran Petteway scored a game-high 26 points to lead five players in double figures for Nebraska, which has won four straight conference games for the first time since 1998-99.
The Huskers were coming off an upset of then-No. 9 Michigan State.
“This was definitely a good win,” Petteway said. “We couldn't come out and lay an egg after getting a big win at Michigan State. We had to come out and prove something. We still have stuff to prove. We have a lot of winning to do, so we have to keep building on it.”
Nebraska led 21-18 before Petteway went to the line with 9:32 left in the first half. He hit both free throws and knocked down a jumper and 3-pointer to push Nebraska’s lead to 10 in 57 seconds. Penn State cut the deficit to 31-25 on a jumper by Travis with 5:35 left in the half, but it would be the Lions’ last field goal of the half.
The Huskers took a 39-27 lead into the break. Nebraska went 21-for-23 on free throws in the first half.
And the Huskers continued to take advantage at the line in the second half. The teams combined for 51 fouls in the game. Penn State went 17-for-23 from the line.
Nebraska put the game out of reach in the opening minutes of the second half.
Petteway drilled a 3-pointer from the corner to cap a 7-0 run and give Nebraska a 46-29 lead with 17:52 remaining. Petteway pointed to the crowd to celebrate as Penn State called for a timeout three seconds later.
But the Lions couldn’t get back in it, and Nebraska’s lead ballooned to 27 with 8:02 remaining.
“To build it up to 27 with eight minutes to go, that's pretty good,” Nebraska coach Tim Miles said. “In the Big Ten you don’t do that to many opponents.”
Penn State couldn’t keep pace as it suffered through another rough shooting performance.
Frazier finished 6-for-19 and Newbill went 5-for-14. John Johnson went 1-for-9 off the bench, while Taylor went 1-for-5 before being ejected with 15:00 to play.
Taylor was ejected after getting his second technical when he and Nebraska’s David Rivers got tangled up in the backcourt. Rivers was also given a technical on the play.
Chambers was called for a technical 18 seconds earlier during a media timeout for arguing. The final technical called on Travis came with 10:02 to play.
The ensuing free throws pushed Nebraska ahead by 21. Two minutes later, the Huskers led by 27, the high point of a dominant win over the Lions.