Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

Tominaga Out-Duels Lundy as Nebraska Topples Penn State

February 05, 2023

Keisei Tominaga erupted for a career-high 30 points on Sunday afternoon to lead Nebraska to a 72-63 home win over Penn State, snapping a four-game losing streak.

The win was Nebraska’s 11th of the season, the most of the Fred Hoiberg era with seven games remaining in the regular season.

“It happens,” Freshman Jamarques Lawrence said. “We still believe. We still believe in what we can do, what we can accomplish. Those four games, it was rough, but we just stayed through it. We needed this one today.”

Tominaga scored from everywhere on the court, shooting 12-of-18 from the field including 5-of-10 from 3 and splitting a pair of free throws. He scored 14 in the first half and 16 in the second as Penn State never quite found an answer for him.

The only other Husker in double figures was Lawrence. The 6-foot-3 guard finished with 11 points — shooting 3-of-4 from deep and 2-of-2 from the foul line — plus a career-high nine rebounds, three assists, two steals, one block and no turnovers.

“You have to have guys step up and everybody, I thought, that stepped on the floor today made a great impact, had a great impact on that win,” Hoiberg said. “And Jamarques, who our guys rallied around in the last game at Penn State — the kid was in tears after the last time we played there; I think a big part of it was the free throws — and he makes the big shot at the end to kind of put it away and then makes the free throws. I’m just so happy for that kid. How he approaches it every day, when he was out of the rotation early he kept coming in and getting work, and he just made huge play after huge play.” 

Derrick Walker wasn’t his typical efficient self but still finished with nine points, seven assists and six rebounds. Sam Griesel chipped in seven points, seven rebounds and three assists while Sam Hoiberg, who slid back to the bench after starting against Illinois, added seven points, two boards, an assist and a steal in 20 minutes.

After turning the ball over 50 times in its previous three games, Nebraska (11-13, 4-9 Big Ten) gave it away just seven times (a season-low) while dishing out 17 assists on 27 buckets as all eight players who saw the court found the scoring column.

“We talked a lot about that after the road trip,” Fred Hoiberg said. “We had 19 and 15 turnovers in back-to-back games. We talked about this after the Illinois game, it was all going to start with our preparation and how were we were going to turn the page and come back in here and get back to work. The guys were very resilient, and it started with our scout group. Those guys, everything they do, it doesn’t go unappreciated by everybody in our program. Those guys come to work every day and to give our guys a great look, and it’s a matter of time before they get their opportunity. So it starts with those guys, they were phenomenal and made our guys work. 

“We really worked on execution and taking care of the ball — two-handed passes, jump stops, which we did a much better job of this game, and seven turnovers I think we had today after what we did on the road, at least, is going to give you a chance.”

Tominaga out-dueled Penn State’s Seth Lundy, who tied the Pinnacle Bank Arena record for made 3-pointers with eight on 13 attempts for a team-high 24 points. Jalen Pickett put up 15 points, seven rebounds and seven assists while Andrew Funk went 4-for-8 from deep and scored 4 points. The rest of the Nittany Lions combined for eight points.

Nebraska shot 52.9% from the field including 40% from 3. The Huskers limited the Nittany Lions (14-9, 5-7) to 16 points in the paint and just four free-throw attempts (they made one) as 38 of their 60 field goal attempts were 3s (they made 14 for a 36.8% clip). Nebraska scored 32 points in the paint and hit 10 free throws (on 18 attempts) to go with their eight 3-pointers.

Tominaga hit his first shot less than two minutes into the game, a 3 from the top of the key, and he said at that point he probably knew he was going to have a good day.

“I think our movement at the beginning of the game, it was good and we shared the ball with each other, so that’s why I think I could get into a rhythm very easily,” Tominaga said.

Both teams got off to hot starts, especially from deep. The Huskers took a 13-6 lead early on a Tominaga 3, though the Nittany Lions used a pair of 3s on their end (one from Funk and one from Lundy) to narrow the gap to two at 15-13.

Then the shots stopped falling on Penn State’s end while Nebraska kept pouring it on, putting together an 11-0 run featuring a 3 from Lawrence, a long 2 from Wilhelm Breidenbach and layups from Tominaga, Walker and Hoiberg.

Penn State’s scoring drought reached nearly five and a half minutes before a put-back by Kebba Njie got the Nittany Lions back on the board and triggered a 7-0 run with all seven points scored after offensive rebounds.

Nebraska’s scoring drought passed the four-minute mark before Tominaga nailed a pull-up jumper, sparking a 9-0 run to push Nebraska’s advantage to 15. Griesel had a breakaway dunk and a three-point play during the run for his first five points of the day.

Nebraska again went cold late, missing its last five shots as Lundy knocked down his fourth and fifth 3s of the half to cut Nebraska’s lead to 37-28 at halftime. 

The Huskers shot 56% from the field including 4-of-8 from deep and dished out nine assists on 15 field goals with just three turnovers in the first half. They limited the Nittany Lions to six points in the paint and 35.3% from the field, but Penn State shot 6-of-17 from deep to hang around. Lundy went 5-for-6 himself for a game-high 15 points while Tominaga countered with 14 for Nebraska.

Tominaga opened the second half with another 3, but Penn State used an 8-1 run to narrow the gap to five. That patterned continued throughout the half as Nebraska had an answer every time the Nittany Lions cut the deficit to one or two possessions.

The Nittany Lions continued to let it fly from deep, cutting Nebraska’s lead to three twice. Nebraska responded each time with back-to-back buckets, through, with Tominaga hitting three of the four including a 3.

Back-to-back buckets from Pickett cut it to 62-58 with just over three minutes to play, but a second-chance bucket from Griesel after a rebound from Walker pushed it back to six with two and a half to play.

Penn State missed its next three shots and a pair of freshmen stepped up to seal the victory as Hoiberg went 3-for-4 at the line while Lawrence hit a deep 3 to beat the shot clock and also hit a pair of free throws to put the finishing touches on the win.

“Sam had a big steal there at the end, had a great block out to get himself to the free throw line and made a big one-and-one after Derrick had missed a couple of them,” Coach Hoiberg said of his son.

Nebraska shot 50% from the field in the second half. Tominaga was the only Husker to make more than one field goal after halftime. Twenty-one of Penn State’s field goal attempts in the second half came from beyond the 3-point arc.

“Really proud of the guys for coming back,” Hoiberg said. “They showed a lot of grit. We withstood runs. We got off to a fast start, which was so important. It’s important in these afternoon games, and our pace, the way we were executing our offense in those first 10 minutes, was something that we need to bottle up and build on and and carry that over for the rest of the season.”

Up next for Nebraska is a trip to Ann Arbor as the Huskers will take on Michigan Wednesday evening.

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