The buzz in the crowd came to a halt as D.J. Newbill, Ross Travis and Jermaine Marshall all took the free-throw line with less than 30 seconds to play.
Newbill made his first attempt to bring the game against Nebraska to within two points, but the team’s next five attempts were all off-target and Penn State’s comeback attempt was ultimately rendered useless.
The Nittany Lions (8-10, 0-6 in Big Ten) once again came up empty in their 68-64 loss to the Cornhuskers (9-9, 1-6) in perhaps their best opportunity for a Big Ten victory so far. The Lions continued their skid with the loss, which team members said was more due to a lack of effort than poor free-throw shooting.
The loss came before a crowd of 9,883 on-hand at the Bryce Jordan Center for THON Hoops, during which Four Diamond Fund families at the game were offered a day of entertainment and to benefit the Interfraternity Council/Panhellenic Dance Marathon.
After the game, Newbill said the missed free throws toward the end of the game were critical, but that wasn’t the main reason for why the Lions didn’t deserve to win the game.
“It didn’t come down to the free throws. It came down to the whole game,” Newbill said. “We didn’t play hard enough. We didn’t come out with enough energy.”
Due in large part to the re-emergence of Marshall, who notched all 18 of his points in the second half, the Lions came alive offensively to score 36 points in the second frame.
However, Chambers said he was shocked with the level of his team’s effort in the first half, when his team fell behind the Huskers, 33-28.
“We didn’t deserve to win,” Chambers said. “We had our chance and we didn’t convert and we didn’t get it done. But, if you play harder in the first 20 minutes, harder in the first five minutes of the second half, then I would say ‘Yeah, we deserve it.’ ”
Still, the team found itself in a position to take control of the game down the stretch after a flagrant foul was called on Nebraska's Brandon Ubel. The missed opportunities at the line were especially magnified by Nebraska’s perfect day at the line, as the Huskers made 16-16.
Chambers, who had been preaching for his players to get to the line more often in recent weeks, said the 15-for-24 effort from the line accounted for many of the team’s missed opportunities in the game.
“You’ve got to shoot a high clip, because getting to the foul line is difficult in this league,” Chambers said. “And when you get there, you got to convert."
Defensively, the Lions allowed the Huskers to shoot 47 percent from the field and struggled to prevent freshman Shavon Shields from producing points. The freshman guard finished with a career-high 29 points and knocked down 10 out of his 11 shots from the field.
Offensively, the loss did show more of a collective effort from the Lions, who saw each of their five starters score at least eight points.
After losing a sixth-straight contest, Chambers said the close loss was not preferable, but made sure to note the losing streak does not have the team reeling emotionally.
“I see progress in certain players, but we need to continue that progress,” Chambers said. “They can’t feel sorry for themselves. Nobody feels sorry for us. But we just [have to] keep going out and working.”
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