Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports
A battle of win-less teams in conference play turned into an exciting game as both teams fought to get out of the cellar. The Huskers were led by the best scoring performance from a freshman in 16 years, as Shavon Shields poured in 29 points, one short of Tyronn Lue who scored 30 in 1996.
For much of the season, the question has been, how will the Huskers find points? They've got a couple of guys who can score, few that can do it consistently, and none that are a threat to carry a team and put up 25-30 points on any given night. Well, the Huskers (10-9, 1-5) may have found a guy that can do just that. The Huskers got a breakout performance from freshman Shavon Shields who scored 29 points before fouling out late in the game, leading the Huskers to a 68-64 win. There has only been one instance where a freshman for Nebraska ever scored 30 points in a game and that was Tyronn Lue who scored 30 points vs. Oregon in 1996 in only his second game as a Husker.
Considering this game was between two teams unlikely to be going any sort of post season play once the Big Ten tournament ends, it really was an entertaining contest. Penn State (8-10, 0-6) opened the contest well, jumping out to a 7-0 lead causing Tim Miles to call a time out to chew out his team a bit. The Huskers responded and controlled much of the rest of the half nearly taking an eight point lead into the break, but PSU's Kevin Montminy nailed an off balance, desperation three at the buzzer to cut the lead to 33-28. Shields had 13 points, Gallegos registered 11.
The second half is where things got crazy. After the Huskers built their lead to as big as ten points 41-31, Penn St. went on a 12-0 run to take a two point lead. The game became a back and forth affair as the teams traded baskets and the lead, both teams desperate to notch their first conference win of the season. The Nittany Lions were able to build up a four point lead as the game went under 8:00, 52-48. From there, the Husker hero, went to work. Shavon Shields scored he next seven points of the game, building up a 55-52 lead that Nebraska would not relinquish.
While the Huskers did not surrender the lead the rest of the way, that doesn't mean this game was without drama down the stretch. The Huskers again grew the lead to six points after a pair of Shields free throws to put the score at 66-60. With :24 left, after an offensive rebound which Penn St. converted by hitting a three pointer and trimming the Husker lead to three, Penn State turned up the defensive pressure, trapping Brandon Ubel on the baseline. While trying to get a pass off, he swiped across the front of the face of PSU's Ross Travis. Travis fell backwards. No foul was called. NU turned the ball over, leading to the foul being called on NU.
During the dead ball, the referees determined that while Ubel was trapped, he caught Travis with his elbow and ruled Ubel committed a flagrant foul. Penn State, down three points, was now headed to the line for four free throws and the ball. Husker fans, media, players and coaches saw the play differently, but it wouldn't be uncommon for a controversial call to go against the Huskers late in a game in Happy Valley. Well, this time Penn St. couldn't take advantage of their good fortune. Of the four free throws, Penn St. made only one. Still down by two, the Penn St. forced NU into a foul situation, this time sending Jermaine Marshall, a 76% free throw shooter to the line with a chance to tie. He missed both, Ubel secured the erbound and was fouled. With an opportunity at two free throws of his own, Ubel calmly hit both, putting the Huskers up 68-64 ,the games final score, effectively sealing the game for the Huskers.
The win was the first for the Huskers in Big Ten play this season, as well as the first conference win for Coach Tim Miles as the head coach at Nebraska. The Huskers head home for another tough matchup with Illinois Tuesday evening. The game can be seen on BTN and will tip at 7:30 pm CT.