3 Thoughts from Nebraska's 76-64 Loss to Penn State
Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

3 Thoughts from Nebraska’s 76-64 Loss to Penn State

February 02, 2020

The Huskers were once again in it at halftime. And once again a lethargic start to the second half doomed them. Penn State walked away from Lincoln with a 76-64 win Saturday night, sending Nebraska to its seventh straight loss. 

The record is now 7-15 on the season and 2-9 in Big Ten play. 

Next up is a trip to Iowa City for Game No. 2 against the Hawkeyes this season. Nebraska won the first meeting at home 76-70. Tip off for the rematch is set for Saturday, Feb. 8, at 5 p.m. CT. Before you fully turn your attention to that one, though, here are three thoughts from the Penn State loss. 

Second Half Starts

It’s a thing. 

Penn State forward John Harrar came to set a screen, then dropped down to the low block where he caught an entry pass and turned over his right shoulder to the left side of the lane. The defense sucked down and Harrar kicked back out to the top of the key. Penn State had three guys spaced from dead center down to the left corner beyond the arc and the ball swung from one guy to the next before making its way to Lamar Stevens in the corner. He pumped and drove in for an easy layup. 

The fifth and sixth points of what would become a 10-2 Penn State run to open the second half. 

Immediately after, Husker center Yvan Ouedraogo found himself in a pretty similar situation to Harrar. He caught a pass on the low block and turned baseline. On his side of the floor, Nebraska had two shooters open and waiting. The freshman, instead, tried a contested hook and missed badly off the backboard. 

Nebraska heads dropped as they made their way back down the floor. 

With each Penn State bucket, the energy got worse. It took just a little more than five minutes for the Nittany Lions to sap the energy from a place that was mighty lively in the first 20 minutes. 

Body language was bad. Shot selection was bad. Defensive energy—after some pretty impressive individual possessions from guys like Dachon Burke Jr. and Jervay Green in the first half—was bad. 

It took seven minutes and 11 seconds for Penn State to go from up five to up 21. 

Nebraska has been, for the most part, good about fighting when things get a little dire throughout the season, but it let go of the rope too early in the second half. Fans were hitting the exits with 12:49 left on the game clock. 

Rutgers opened the second half 13-5 on the Huskers two games ago. Wisconsin opened the second half with a 15-2 run the game before that. And the game before that, Indiana opened the second half with a 16-2 run. 

Whatever the issue is coming out of halftime, Nebraska is having a hard time addressing it. 

A Rought Night for Cam

Showing up late to a film session cost sophomore point guard Cam Mack the start Saturday night. It was the third time this season he’s been benched to open a game. 

When he checked in for the first time, about five minutes in with Nebraska up 13-7, he didn’t look like himself. At no point Saturday night did Mack have the same kind of bounce he has played with of late. 

Over his previous four games, Mack was averaging 18 points, 7.0 assists and 4.5 rebounds. He wasn’t shooting it from the field particularly great, but he was 14-for-27 on 3s over that stretch. 

Against Penn State, Mack was held scoreless. He missed all of his six shots, two of which were beyond the arc. He had only one rebound and one assist until garbage time began late, the usual “fingerprints everywhere” kind of performance nowhere to be found. Mack was looking for his shot a little more than usual instead of controlling the game. He finished with one rebound and three assists against three fouls and three turnovers.

It’s the first time for his career he’s been held scoreless, and only the third game he’s been held in single digits. When your best player has that poor a performance, posting a team-wide shooting percentage of 39% from the field is the result. 

Mack isn’t going to have nights like this often, but with Dachon Burke Jr. in a major shooting slump (9-for-35 from the field in his last three games) and Jervay Green still trying to find his offense in Lincoln (two points on four shots in 16 minutes), on his off nights the Huskers are going to find themselves in trouble. 

The Easy Stuff

Nebraska was 5-for-17 on layups. 

Nebraska was 8-for-19 at the free throw line. 

Nebraska gave up 14 offensive rebounds, most of them not because Penn State was bigger but because Penn State cared to establish better position after the initial shot went up. 

Doing the little things right continues to be a challenge. 

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