Despite an all-time performance from Teddy Allen, Nebraska came up just short in an 86-83 loss to Penn State on Tuesday night.
Nine days after Nebraska snapped its 26-game Big Ten losing streak on Penn State’s court, the Nittany Lions went into Pinnacle Bank Arena and returned the favor with a barrage of 3-pointers.
Allen set a school record with 28 points in the first half and finished one point shy of Eric Piatkowski’s single-game scoring record of 42 points. He put up 41 points, eight rebounds and six assists, all team-highs. Allen shot 16-of-24 from the field, 6-of-9 from 3 and 3-of-3 from the free-throw line.
“He went out and made the right play. He had eight rebounds, he had six assists,” Coach Fred Hoiberg said. “Four turnovers is too many, but I really thought Teddy played — when you score 41 points and have six assists, that’s a really hard thing to do in a college game … He was really complete out there tonight and it was fun to see him get it going like that. Unfortunately we couldn’t get the win with the historic night that he had.”
Nebraska rallied late to give itself a chance after falling behind by seven with less than a minute to play. With 12.7 seconds on the clock, Jamari Wheeler knocked down a pair of free throws to give the Nittany Lions a three-point lead.
Nebraska got the ball in to Trey McGowens and he pushed it ahead, passing to Allen flashing to the top of the key. Two defenders went with Allen and he shoveled it back to McGowens who had an open look from the right wing, but the junior guard couldn’t get it to fall.
“We had three options on it: Trey coming off, and I thought he had a pretty good look at the basket,” Hoiberg said. “We had a hammer screen on the other end and then a crack-back on Teddy on the strong side which I think looked like he had a pretty good chance of being open. But I thought Trey hand good look at it and unfortunately it didn’t go down.”
Allen said he thought McGowens got a good look at the end and he’d have him take it again and believe the next one would go down. McGowens finished with 17 points on 5-of-12 from the field, 2-of-6 from 3 and 5-of-8 from the line.
Nebraska had one of its most efficient scoring games of the season, shooting 53.6% from the field, 48% from 3 and 73.3% from the foul line. However, the Huskers also turned the ball over 18 times which led to 25 points on the other end. Nebraska also surrendered 16 offensive rebounds and 16 second-chance points.
“It all came down to too many turnovers and offensive rebounds,” Hoiberg said. “When you allow the other team to have 14 extra shots on goal and they shot more free throws than we did as well, it’s going to be tough to win. They scored 25 points off our turnovers, that just puts your transition defense in a bind, in a really tough position, especially the careless ones that turn into pick-sixes, and that’s what I thought a lot of those were. I didn’t think our cutting was as good as it had been.”
Penn State shot 14-of-27 from the 3-point line (37.8%) and 16-of-19 (84.2%) from the charity stripe. All five starters scored in double figures led by Myreon Jones with 29 including six 3s and seven free throws. John Harrar, a 6-foot-9 senior, caused havoc in the lane with eight of his 14 rebounds on the offensive end, and he chipped in 10 points for the double-double.
For the second straight game, Nebraska came out flat, giving up an 8-0 run to start with all eight points coming after offensive rebounds.
Then Allen took over. He showed why he earned the nickname Teddy Buckets in high school, scoring 10 straight Nebraska points and 15 of the Huskers’ first 19 while chipping in an assist. He converted a tough layup to tie the game just before the under-12 timeout.
Allen subbed himself out for a quick breather at the break and Kobe Webster picked up the slack, knocking down a 3 to give the Huskers their first lead. Jones was just as hot as Allen, however, and the Huskers lost him for his fourth 3-pointer of the first half to tie it.
Five lead changes and three ties followed as the teams went back and forth. The Nittany Lions broke the third tie with a 3 from Wheeler and a layup from Izaiah Brockington to pull ahead 39-34, but Allen scored the last four points of the half to pull Nebraska within one at the break at 39-38.
Allen’s single-half record of 28 points came on 11-of-14 from the field, 3-of-4 from 3 and 3-of-3 from the free-throw line. He also dished out two assists (giving him a hand in 32 of Nebraska’s 28 points) and grabbed a team-high four rebounds.
However, the rest of the Huskers combined to shoot 4-of-15 from the field.
The Nittany Lions didn’t score any more second-chance points after that 8-0 start, but they did convert Nebraska’s nine turnovers into 14 points on the other end. Jones led the Nittany Lions with 17 points including 5-of-8 from deep as Penn State hit seven 3s as a team. Hoiberg said the defensive effort “wasn’t good enough.”
“Transition, we got exposed early in the game,” Hoiberg said. “I just didn’t think the urgency was where it needed to be to win a Big Ten team in that first half. They were too comfortable out there and a lot of it was just transition. We talk all the time about communication. We’re one of the best talking teams on the sideline. You can hear the chants and all that stuff. But when we get on the floor, for whatever reason, we have stretches where we don’t say anything to each other and that’s where it starts, transition.
“You have to get back, you have to get the ball stopped, you have to get the basket covered. As Doc [Sadler] always says, you don’t have a man in transition, you match up and we just couldn’t get matched. That’s where they got their rhythm and that’s where they got their flow going and it just turned into a shootout in that first half.”
Penn State scored the first three points of the second half, but Nebraska answered with a 10-5 run to pull ahead 48-47. Allen hit another 3 and fed Derrick Walker for a three-point play during that stretch.
The Huskers started to unravel a bit from there as Penn State hit the Huskers with an 11-0 run. During that stretch, the Huskers had two turnovers and gave up an offensive rebound, each of which led to a Nittany Lion 3.
Hoiberg called timeout and Allen went back to work when play resumed with a step-back 3 and a tough take to the rim. The Nittany Lions managed to hold onto their lead, thanks mostly to the free-throw line, until the Huskers caught fire and ripped off a 9-2 run including two 3s by Thorir Thorbjarnarson and one by McGowens that tied it up at 70-all with 6:13 to play.
After a timeout to regroup, Penn State scored five straight to regain the lead, and the Nittany Lions didn’t give it up again.
Allen found Derrick Walker for a dunk to make it a three-point game with less than four minutes to play and the Huskers got a stop on the other end, but instead of pushing the ball ahead with numbers after the board, McGowens tried to draw a foul on the trailing defender and got called for a push-off. Thanks to an offensive rebound, Penn State ran another 36 seconds off the clock before getting the ball inside to Harrar for a baby hook.
A pair of free throws by McGowens and then a steal on the in-bounds pass and two more freebies from Thorbjarnarson made it a three-point game with 43.2 to play, but instead of playing it out with the shot-clock and game-clock differential, McGowens fouled Jones with 33.4 to play and he hit both.
Allen said he didn’t have a good answer for the source of Nebraska’s numerous mental mistakes, suggesting it might have been a lack of focus.
“People just make mistakes sometimes, but the team that limits those the most wins,” Allen said. “We had stretches of the game where we just made too many mistakes, myself included. I had way too many turnovers; I think I had four turnovers. That’s not going to get the job done. Gotta be better, gotta be better.”
Nebraska managed to cut the deficit down to one twice in the final 30 seconds, first with a three-point play from McGowens and then with a quick layup by Allen, but Wheeler came up clutch at the line and forced Nebraska to go for the 3 on the last possession.
Nebraska shot 55.6% from the field with 8 3-pointers, but nine turnovers and six well-timed offensive rebounds allowed the Nittany Lions to overcome the gap in scoring efficiency.
“Offensively to shoot those percentages, it’s been a while, I think going back before the shutdown with Michigan State and Indiana, we were up around those percentages,” Hoiberg said. “So it was good to see that ball going through the hoop and I thought our spacing and cutting got really good during those last 10 minutes. Unfortunately we just couldn’t string enough good stops together and when we did get a stop we couldn’t get the rebound.”
Nebraska has a quick turnaround as the Huskers will hit the road on Wednesday to Tavel to Champaign for a rematch with Illinois, who lost to Michigan State on Tuesday. Tipoff for Thursday’s game is set for 6 p.m. CT on Big Ten Network.
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.