Lincoln, Neb. – With a measuring-stick game at Michigan State up next, No. 24 Penn State easily could have overlooked Nebraska.
All coach Patrick Chambers had to do to keep his players on task was to remind them that the Nittany Lions had never won in Lincoln since Nebraska joined the Big Ten in 2011-12.
They have now.
Myles Dread scored 14 points, Lamar Stevens and Myreon Jones had 13 apiece, and Penn State pulled away early in the second half on its way to a 76-64 win over the struggling Cornhuskers.
“It’s just another boost of confidence,” Stevens said. “Playing in Nebraska is never easy. And you know we didn’t take it lightly. So just going into this week we worked really hard at practice and watched a lot of film and were ready for a dogfight.”
Stevens became the third 2,000-point scorer in Penn State program history, and Mike Watkins had 11 points and a season-high 17 rebounds to pass John Amaechi as the Nittany Lions’ career rebounds leader in Big Ten play.
Stevens has 2,007 career points and ranks behind only Talor Battle (2,213 points from 2007-11) and Jesse Arnelle (2,138 from 1951-55) on the Lions’ career scoring chart.
“It’s a blessing, and I’m just grateful for every opportunity I get to play with these guys,” Stevens said. “I’m just glad I got to reach this accomplishment. It’s just a credit to my teammates and my coaches for just believing in me.”
Penn State (16-5, 6-4 Big Ten) won its fourth straight after a three-game losing streak and heads into No. 14 Michigan State with momentum.
“I still think we can get better,” Chambers said. “I just said that to the team: ‘Guys, great job, never won here before, so we’re going to take this victory and go home. However, it’s scary to think we can get a lot better. We can get more production from certain individuals. Just keep that growth mindset and be the best team we can be by the end of the year.’”
The Cornhuskers (7-15, 2-9) lost their seventh in a row as season scoring leader Cam Mack was held without a point for the first time this season. Haanif Cheatham led the Huskers with 15 points, Thorir Thorbjarnarson added 12 and Dachon Burke had 11.
The Lions scored the first eight points of the second half to go up 46-33, with Watkins dunking a lob from Jones that led Nebraska coach Fred Hoiberg to call a timeout.
The Huskers turned over the ball on three of their first five possessions after the half and didn’t score until Burke converted a fast break. Watkins answered with a dunk putback, and the Lions’ lead grew to 60-39 when Stevens dunked and hit a 3 to end a 22-6 run.
“I’ve been pleased with the guys coming out, their approach and leaving it all out on the floor,” Hoiberg said. “Tonight, that wasn’t the case. I feel sick about it in our home building with an unbelievable crowd, to go out there and have that type of thing happen. You have to find a way to compete for 40 minutes. We did for the first 20, and then second half you see the heads hanging, but it’s no excuse to not go out and play your (tail) off.”
More Big Ten
(At) Ohio State 68, Indiana 59: With a key player missing from the Ohio State lineup, Kaleb Wesson put the Buckeyes on his back again.
The junior big man scored 15 points and pulled down 11 rebounds, dominating Indiana in the paint.
The Buckeyes (14-7, 4-6 Big Ten), who struggled mightily in January, went on a 3-point tear in the second half in winning their second game in a row and avenged a 66-54 loss to Indiana in Bloomington three weeks ago.
Ohio State was missing freshman guard and third-leading scorer D.J. Carton, who said this week he was stepping away from the team for mental health reasons. Guard CJ Walker stepped up in Carton’s absence, scoring 14 and dishing four assists, and Justin Ahrens added 11 on 3-for-5 3-point shooting in the second half.
“They imposed their will physically on the boards, especially early,” Indiana coach Archie Miller said of the Buckeyes, who held the Hoosiers to just four offensive rebounds and zero second-chance points in the game.
Ohio State led at the intermission 31-22, despite firing away from 3-point range and hitting few (3 for 13). The Buckeyes kept firing in the second half, hitting 7 of 14.
“It’s just how the game flows,” Walker said. “We were kind of hitting shots. (Ahrens) got hot in the second half. That’s just how the game flows. Of course, we tried to go through the paint for Kaleb to make plays whether he’s scoring or passing the ball, just create double teams and create gaps for everybody else to get off.”
Devonte Green led the Hoosiers (15-7, 5-6) with 13 points for the Hoosiers, and Rob Phinisee added 11.
Indiana is starting to run into the same kind of struggles Ohio State did when the Big Ten run soured for the Buckeyes last month.
“You know, it’s an odd thing,” Miller said. “Teams go through highs and lows and some teams really find their niche. This team, sort of, has hit a pothole so speak. In every season, the story’s never written until the end but we’re going to have to change paths here and change course of how we’re playing.”
Purdue 61, (at) Northwestern 58: Sasha Stefanovic made a 3-pointer with 3.1 seconds left and Trevion Williams scored 13 points. After more than 7 minutes without a field goal, Purdue (12-10, 5-6 Big Ten) woke up and went on an 11-0 run to win the game. Eric Hunter Jr. broke the field goal drought with a runner in the lane and Jahaad Proctor made a 3 to tie the game at 58 with 53.9 seconds left.
After a replay overturned a Northwestern possession, the Boilermakers went down the floor and set up a long 3 for Stefanovic.
Miller Kopp scored 15 points and freshman Boo Buie scored 12 as Northwestern (6-15, 1-10) lost its sixth straight.
Northwestern has not defeated Purdue since March 9, 2014. It was their eighth straight loss to the Boilermakers
Hunter added 13 for Purdue and Stefanovic finished with six points.
After a three-point play by Proctor gave Purdue a 35-33 lead early in the second half, Buie went on his own 9-0 run, hitting three consecutive 3-pointers. Buie’s 3 in transition gave the Wildcats a 42-35 lead with 15:01 left.
Northwestern led 29-25 at the half. Kopp was 3 of 4 from 3-point range for nine points and Pat Spencer added six.
Purdue’s bench outscored their starters 19-6 in the first half. Thompson scored nine points and Hunter added eight for Purdue in the first half.