Shawn Eichorst made it clear immediately after Nebraska bowed out of the Big Ten Tournament in the play-in round that Coach Tim Miles would be back for another season, but the 76-67 overtime loss to Penn State in Washington D.C. made clear how much work Miles has to do.
The Huskers finish 2016-17 at 12-19, tied for the most losses in program history. They’ve finished with a losing record three years straight.
Nebraska shot 34.2 percent from the field including 33.3 percent from 3-point range. The Huskers shot below 40 percent from the field in 15 of their 31 games this year including eight times against conference foes.
Penn State shot 7-of-18 form 3-point range (38.9 percent). The Huskers allowed their opponent to shoot better than 38 percent from deep 18 times this season, including 11 times against Big Ten competition.
Nebraska was looking for a fresh start in Washington D.C., but they showed more of the same. Penn State outplayed Nebraska on both ends from the tip and built up a 27-16 lead midway through the first half.
However, Nebraska got a boost off its bench by a couple of freshman and the Huskers reeled off a 14-3 run to even the game up at 30-all with 4:24 to go in the half. What followed is something Huskers fans have seen far too many of – an extended scoring drought. An 8-0 run over the next 4:10 put Penn State back in front before Jack McVeigh hit a 3-pointer to make it 38-33 at halftime.
Jeriah Horne and Jordy Tshimanga scored four points apiece and were both plus-3 in 10 minutes in the first half. Tai Webster led the Huskers with 10 points and three assists at the break.
The Huskers scored the first four points of the second half to pull within one before Penn State finally got a shot to fall two minutes in. What followed was nearly three-and-a-half minutes of scoreless basketball as both teams traded empty possession after empty possession.
The teams traded buckets to end the drought, but Nebraska followed it up with another two-minute scoreless stretch. Penn State expanded its lead back to 10 around the 11-minute mark. The Nittany Lions still led by nine with four-and-a-half to go when Nebraska started chipping away at their lead.
Nebraska used a 12-3 run capped by a fade-away 3-pointer by Glynn Watson Jr. to tie the game at 58-all with 55 seconds to play. A pair of Penn State free throws broke the tie, but Watson fed Ed Morrow Jr. for a layup with 22 seconds to play. Penn State failed to score on the other end, sending the game to overtime at 60-all.
The Nittany Lions dominated the extra period, however, building up a 10-point led with a 12-2 that put the game on ice.
Webster, Nebraska’s lone senior, scored just two points after halftime and fouled out early in the overtime period.
Junior guard Evan Taylor led the Huskers with a season-high 15 points on 6-of-11 shooting. He was the only Husker to shoot better than 50 percent from the field. Watson finished with 11 points on 5-of-16 shooting. Watson, Nebraska’s second leading scorer on the season, closed out the year with six straight games with more field goal attempts than points.
Four Nittany Lions finished with double digits but it was redshirt freshman center Mike Watkins that dominated the game. He led all players with 18 points on 9-of-12 shooting, 11 rebounds and eight blocks.
The Huskers finished this season ninth in the Big Ten in scoring, 12th in opponents’ scoring, 13th in 2-point percentage and 11th in 3-point percentage, last in opponents’ 3-point percentage, 10th in free-throw percentage, 13th in assists and 12th in turnovers.
Miles will get another year, but he has plenty of work to do.
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.