Penn State attempted six free throws in the last 30 seconds of the tightly-contested game against Nebraska on Saturday, making just one of them in the process.
Yet, despite the missed opportunities at the end of the 68-64 loss, team members were quick to cite a lack of effort as the main reason for their sixth consecutive dropped contest. Both coach Patrick Chambers and players said a lacking sense of urgency throughout the game was the true reason for the loss and this will need to improve moving forward in Big Ten play.
Redshirt sophomore D.J. Newbill said after the game that the Cornhuskers — who also came into the game winless in conference play — came out victorious primarily because they wanted it more.
“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. They played harder and that’s what happens.”
After a lackluster first half, the Nittany Lions put forth a better effort in the second frame overall, outscoring the Huskers and shooting 41 percent from the field.
However, the Lions allowed the lowest-scoring team in the Big Ten to get out to a 33-28 lead in the first half. Chambers said his players couldn’t control the game early because they came out on their heels.
“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.’ ”
Chambers said at his weekly press conference Monday that inexperience is likely the biggest reason why the effort necessary to compete in the Big Ten has not always been there.
And because of this, the second-year coach didn’t have a direct answer for how to ensure such a start to a game would not happen again.
“You work so hard all week and the ball’s about to go up and you would think that you have the butterflies in your gut and you’re ready to go,” Chambers said. “But, again, this is a youthful team and missing shots and turning it over can really mess you up for a couple possessions.”
Chambers said the team’s inability to get stops when it needed to was also a byproduct of its poor effort against the Huskers. Nebraska freshman Shavon Shields, who averages 7.9 points per game, had a career-high 29 points and made 10 of his 11 shots.
The coach added that the team’s mindset following the regrettable output has not been shaken, but made sure to note players got some extra practice at the foul line on Monday.
“Get better every day,” Chambers said of the team’s mindset. “Keep working hard. Keep getting D.J. [practice] at the point. Try to take care of our turnovers. We shot a ton of free throws today.”