Penn State (15-17, 6-12 Big Ten) avenged its early-February loss to Nebraska and snapped a five-game losing streak that started with the Cornhuskers defeat in a 76-67 Big Ten Tournament first round win over Tim Miles’ side.
Mike Watkins had an incredible night, nearly finishing with a triple-double as he led both teams in three categories on the way to helping the Nittany Lions advance to play Michigan State on Thursday.
How It Happened
Shooting was a huge issue for Penn State the last time out against Nebraska and in the previous game on Sunday against Iowa, but the Nittany Lions got off to a hot start — shooting 60% through the opening minutes with a 3-3 effort for eight points from Tony Carr to lead the way.
Penn State led by as many as 11 in the first half, but a four-minute scoring drought late allowed the Cornhuskers to get back in the game and eventually tie it 30-30. After Nebraska’s game-tying bucket, Penn State went on an 8-0 run before the end of the half capped off by a Watkins put-back bucket — bringing him into double figures and breaking Penn State’s 65-year freshman season rebound record with 255 boards.
The Nittany Lions led 38-33 at the half as Watkins and Nebraska’s Tai Webster had the game-high 10 points heading into the break.
The second half was not as productive offensively for either side, but the Nittany Lions appeared to have this game under control for the majority of the final 20 minutes.
Despite shooting just 35% in regulation, the Cornhuskers were in striking distance and managed to claw back from a nine-point second half deficit late. Glynn Watson Jr. hit a three with less than a minute to go to tie it 58-58. Carr gave the Nittany Lions a lead momentarily, but Ed Morrow tied it once more with an open look in the paint to send it to overtime.
In overtime, Penn State regained its composure and opened up a lead on the Cornhuskers to save its season. Starting with a three-pointer from Lamar Stevens, the Nittany Lions brought their lead to double digits once again and finished off the game strong from the free throw line to grab a 76-67 win.
Player Of The Game
Mike Watkins | Forward | Freshman
The big man was a crucial presence on the low post for the Nittany Lions. He DOMINATED on the defensive end with eight blocks — a Big Ten Tournament record. He also finished with a game highs in points (18) and rebounds (11).
The Nittany Lions kept their season alive and will play again Thursday against five-seed Michigan State — who they beat at the Palestra in early January. Tipoff from the Verizon Center is at 2:30 p.m. on BTN.