Penn State basketball team hasn’t had much success in Big Ten play this season. Whether it involved giving up halftime leads, giving the games away, or just being thoroughly dominated, the Nittany Lions couldn’t get into a winning rhythm en route to an 0-6 conference record. When the inevitable 50/50 play came late in the game, it never seemed to go Penn State’s way.
That’s why when Tim Frazier stole the ball with a little more than a minute to play and passed it to D.J. Newbill for a slam dunk to put the Nittany Lions ahead for good, Pat Chambers was ecstatic his team finally made the play late to win the game.
“That’s Penn State basketball,” Chambers said. “We work hard, and that’s what I want to see. I want to see our guys make winning plays.”
That play gave Penn State a lead it wouldn’t relinquish. The team made all of its free throws in the final minute, John Johnson hit a contested three with 16 seconds left, and Penn State finally won a conference game. The 58-54 win was Penn State’s first since the non-conference finale against Mount Saint Mary’s on December 22, and it was the team’s first Big Ten win in the Bryce Jordan Center since it upset Michigan last February.
It wasn’t always pretty, of course. The teams grinded out the first half shooting a combined 31 percent from the field, and Nebraska took a 29-22 lead into the half.
“That first half was brutal,” Chambers said. “The crowd was ready, and they wanted to get into the game. We didn’t make many shots, we had some really good looks on threes, they just weren’t falling.”
Both teams came out of the second half trading baskets, as Penn State could only make up one point of of Nebraska’s halftime lead for the next 15 minutes before things started turning Penn State’s way. Brandon Taylor made one-of-two free throws after being fouled, Donovon Jack made an and-one to break an 0-5 slump that stretched nearly 18 minutes, and the Nittany Lions were rolling.
The lead changed hands twice more, and Penn State trailed the Cornhuskers by just one point as Frazier made one of the most important plays of the year for the Nittany Lions. He stole the ball from Nebraska’s Deverell Biggs and passed it to Newbill, who slammed it home and sent the 5,705 fans in the BJC into a frenzy.
Newbill’s dunk, which made SportsCenter’s Top 10 plays on Thursday night, gave the home team the boost it needed, as the Nittany Lions would take the lead for good with 1:05 left. John Johnson hit a three-pointer with 16 seconds left, and Frazier hit two free throws to ice it, as Penn State earned its first conference win of the year, 58-54.
“I think [this win]was great for us,” Frazier said after the game. “We’ve been right there, and tonight we were finally able to finish out a game. The ball finally bounced our way. We’re going to continue to work, and do the same things that we did last week when we didn’t have a win. Those are the same things that we’ll do next week to prepare for Ohio State.”
“We were on that hump, weren’t we? We were on it, and now hopefully we’re over it. Those are the winning plays we need to make,” Chambers said.
- Quick stats: Shooting percentage – Penn State 35.1%, Nebraska 35.8%. Rebounds – Penn State 35, Nebraska 40. Free throws – Penn State 13/17, Nebraska 6/10. Turnovers – Penn State 5, Nebraska 14.
- Nebraska coach Tim Miles gave Penn State praise after the game as well: “There’s no doubt in my mind that Penn State could be at least 3-3 instead of 0-6 at the time. We knew this was going to be a really difficult place. Their guards are very good.”
- Graham Woodward got his first career start in place of Ross Travis, who was suffering from “flu-like symptoms” and only played four minutes. The true freshman was 0-3 from the field in 13 minutes.
- Check out the full highlights here.
- Penn State travels to Ohio State next Wednesday, January 29, at 7 p.m. The team returns to the BJC on Super Bowl Sunday, February 2 against Purdue. Tipoff is set for 11:30 a.m.