LINCOLN, Neb. — The Huskers have a big opportunity on Tuesday night to pick up a much-needed win as the Penn State Nittany Lions (14-12, 6-7) come to Pinnacle Bank Arena for an 8 p.m. tip-off.
“I’m looking forward to the game,” Coach Tim Miles said. “Obviously we need a W, they need a W … I just feel like every night we go out we’re going to put ourselves in a position to win, and hopefully our fans can get out and give them heck. I know it’s another late start, but those kids don’t need sleep that badly.”
Miles said his team is getting closer to full strength after a couple days off. Against Wisconsin last week, sophomore forward Ed Morrow Jr. returned from a seven-game absence while dealing with a stress reaction in his foot and sophomore point guard Glynn Watson Jr. returned to the starting lineup after coming off the bench for a game with a groin injury.
“Not bad, not bad,” Miles said about how Morrow and Watson looked against the Badgers. “Everybody got to practice some this week, so that was good. We had a couple days off after the game on Friday and Saturday, and then came back Sunday and [Monday], and everybody practiced the last two days.”
Miles said he has not thought much about whether or not he is going to put Morrow back in the starting lineup. Jordy Tshimanga has been starting at center the last couple of games.
“If there’s a point in time where I think that’s the right thing to do, I will,” Miles said.
The Nittany Lions have been up-and-down this season much like the Huskers, and three of the top five scorers for Pat Chamber’s team are freshmen.
“I’m really impressed,” Miles said. “They’ve got great athleticism. I think this is Pat’s best team since I’ve been here. Tony Carr plays like veteran point guard. I really like his game, can do a lot of things right, hard to guard … Mike Watkins, who redshirted of course, is right behind Ethan Happ in terms of the best defender in the league when you look at the absolute numbers. He has as much impact as Happ and you saw what Happ did to us last week I thought, really caused a lot of problems inside. I really like [Lamar] Stephens, too. He just reminds me of a bigger, stronger Jeriah Horne, that old man game, knows how to get buckets and can really hurt you.”
The other two top five scorers are a pair of juniors in Shep Garner and Payton Banks.
“Of course then you look at Shep Garner who’s making 3s and Peyton Banks who’s really making 3s, and that’s a nice rotation,” Miles continued. “They’re young; they’ve made some mistakes here and there … but their athleticism is outstanding. They’re a very athletic team.”
Penn State’s improvement hasn’t yet showed up in the team’s record, but Miles said it is clear when watching the film.
“I think what’s really interesting is those two freshmen — Tony Carr especially — at the end of games are making huge plays,” Miles said. “You can tell that savviness is really important. They’re great in transition and their defense is much improved, too — some because of their shot-blocking with Watkins, but just with their overall physicality too.”
The game will be televised on BTN with Kevin Kugler and Shon Morris on the call.
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.