Nebraska put forth its best performance of the season — and arguably, of Fred Hoiberg’s entire tenure in Lincoln — on Sunday night to secure the Huskers‘ first road win of the season. Nebraska blew out Penn State 93-70 in State College.
The Huskers shot a blistering 13-of-20 (65%) from 3 and 58.2% overall as all five starters scored in double figures in Nebraska’s highest-scoring regulation game of the season against one of the best defensive teams in the Big Ten.
Bryce McGowens led the way with 25 points, the most the Nittany Lions have allowed by a single player this season. He shot 8-of-13 from the field (3-of-5 from 3) and 6-of-6 from the free-throw line.
Alonzo Verge Jr. added 15 points on 50% shooting, five assists and four rebounds. Lat Mayen scored a season-high 13 points on 5-of-8 from the field including 2-of-3 from deep. Trey McGowens also scored a season-high with 12 points on 4-of-5 from the field and 3-of-4 from the line with five boards, four assists and no turnovers. Derrick Walker chipped in 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting. C.J. Wilcher chipped in nine points off the bench and hit all three of his 3-point attempts. Nebraska shot 16-of-19 from the foul line as well.
“I thought early, we got in such a good rhythm against the No. 1 defensive team in the league as far as points per game,” Hoiberg said during his postgame radio interview on the Huskers Radio Network. “We kind of matched each other for those first four or five possessions and then we just kept it going. You see the efficiency, our offensive numbers of 58%, overall 65 from the 3, and I just thought we never got sped up tonight. We just made the right play and we hit singles. We didn’t try to do too much. And I thought everybody that stepped on the floor made a big contribution to this win.”
Nebraska (8-21, 2-16 Big Ten) held Penn State to 46.6% from the field (34.6% from 3) and just 10 free-throw attempts. The Huskers limited the Nittany Lions (12-14, 7-11) to six offensive rebounds and three second-chance points. Hoiberg credited Walker’s play on both ends, but especially with his effort on the glass against Penn State’s John Harrar who had pulled down 20 boards in his previous game.
“He’s just battling the biggest, baddest dude in the league on the offensive glass,” Hoiberg said. “He had four, their team had four of them in the first half; that was a great sign. And then they only had two offensive rebounds in the second half. We really challenged our guards to get in there and help Derrick and Eduardo [Andre]; they were going to be in a wrestling match down there with Harrar and they did a phenomenal job going and getting some over the top. It was fun to go out there and see us play a full, complete, consistent game on both ends of the floor. I thought we executed mixing up our defenses beautifully and just trying to keep them off balance.”
Both sides got off to a good start offensively with shots falling at a high rate, but Nebraska created some separation with an 11-0 run to pull ahead 21-13. The Huskers shot over 60% from the field early and converted four offensive rebounds into seven second-chance points.
Greg Lee finally snapped the run with a long 2, but that didn’t slow the Huskers down any as a Verge layup, a Trey McGowens step-back 3 and a put-back from Bryce McGowens pushed the lead to 13 at 28-15. The Huskers averaged 2.0 points per possession through the first eight minutes.
The Huskers finally slowed down, going nearly three minutes without scoring, and Penn State shaved four points off the lead. However, Bryce McGowens checked back in after a stint on the bench and immediately knocked down a pull-up from the elbow to give him 12 points in the first 12 minutes.
Four turnovers in a five-possession span allowed the Nittany Lions to pull within eight before a layup from Verge. Penn State scored again but Nebraska responded with a 7-0 run including four from Walker (a dunk and a layup) and a 3 from Verge to take its largest lead of the game at 39-24.
“It started with Alonzo,” Hoiberg said. “I thought he was kind of the catalyst on the offensive end with getting that possession started the right way. When you start a possession the right way, it generally finishes and vice versa, when you have a bad start to the possession usually it doesn’t end well. So it was just good overall execution. I thought Trey was terrific getting in the paint, making simple plays tonight. You can see he’s getting his timing. And then defensively I thought he really grabbed control of that game about midway through that first half.”
Nebraska continued to play well the rest of the half, extending the lead first to 17, then to 18 with 3s from Bryce McGowens and Verge. Nebraska got a stop on the final possession of the half to take a 49-31 lead into the locker room.
The Huskers shot 60.66% from the field including 7-of-12 for deep in the first half. Bryce McGowens led the way with 15 points, Verge added 12 points with three assists and Walker chipped in 10 points and four boards. Nebraska rebounded six of its 13 misses and turned them into 12 second-chance points, averaging 1.531 points per possession for the half.
Defensively, the Huskers held Penn State to 46.4% from the field (4-of-12 from 3) and forced eight turnovers.
Nebraska opened the second half with a three-point play from Verge, then Mayen added a long 2 to push the lead to 23 95 seconds in, then Mayen converted a three-point play a few minutes later to push the lead to 24. The Huskers continued to roll the rest of the way.
The lead peaked at 32 after a Kobe Webster 3 with just under seven minutes to play. The closest Penn State got after that was 23 in the final minute, and Hoiberg went deeper into his bench for the last four minutes or so.
Nebraska shot 54.5% in the second half including 6-of-8 from deep, and the Huskers hit 14 of their 17 free throws as well.
“Obviously none of us are happy with anything that has gone on from the win-loss record. We’ve had some performances where I think we played well and we were proud of how we played. So to play this way, to play the right way for 40 minutes and to get rewarded for it, it’s very gratifying and we’ve got two regular season game left.”
Up next, Nebraska’s road trip will continue as the Huskers will head to Columbus to take on Ohio State on Tuesday.
“We’re going to stay on this road trip for our third game in five nights and hopefully go out and play well,” Hoiberg said. “Ohio State is probably not going to be happy with the way that they got beat today so it’s going to be an angry team and we’ve just got to go in and, again, make simple plays, play the right way.”
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.