At first glance, 314-pound forward Andre Almeida would fit the bill of a Nebraska offensive lineman, not a basketball player.
However, Almeida — along with the rest of the Huskers’ squad — made a conscious effort to clog the lane in a 67-53 win over Penn State in Lincoln on Saturday.
Defensively, Nebraska sagged inside the 3-point line and into the paint, letting Penn State try to shoot its way to its first Big Ten win of the season.
Considering the Nittany Lions didn’t necessarily light it up from beyond the arc, trying to cut off lanes to the basket was a smart move by Huskers coach Tim Miles.
The Lions finished the game shooting a 29.2 percent clip from the field, including a meager 2-of-10 from downtown.
“We had some really good looks and at some point you have to be able to make shots,” Lions coach Patrick Chambers said after the game.
“They packed it in. There were four or five guys at a time, so D.J. [Newbill] couldn’t get downhill and get to the rim. It was smart. It was really like a disguise almost with five guys in the middle.”
Regardless of the number of bodies in the paint, Penn State still made an effort to drive and draw fouls even if it wasn’t garnering clean looks at the basket.
Nebraska totaled 23 fouls and saw the Lions exploit the hacking by sinking 23-of-32 attempts from the charity stripe for a 71.9 percent showing.
The performance at the line — the most attempts by the Lions in Big Ten play this season — was led by D.J. Newbill, Jermaine Marshall and walk-on Alan Wisniewski.
Newbill used the free throw line to his advantage by sinking 9-of-12 attempts, en route to a game-leading 17 points.
Marshall, who wasn’t in the starting lineup for the first time in 25 games, made his opportunities count from the charity stripe with a perfect 8-of-8.
And while Wisniewski made only two free throws, his seven attempts were another example of how undisciplined the Huskers were and the determination to attack the hoop on Penn State’s part.
“I think we did really well on defense, [but] obviously when you foul that much it kind of negates it,” Nebraska forward Brandon Ubel told reporters after the game. “We just recognized their sets and used our hands a little too much and fouled.”
However, Nebraska got the worse of the fouling situation as the Lions continuously hacked their opponent.
Entering the game, Penn State was called for 68 more fouls than any Big Ten team in conference play and they continued the trend on Saturday.
A product of 28 Penn State fouls, the Huskers nearly scored half their points from the charity stripe, hitting 32-of-41 attempts from the line.
Considering the foul-heavy and ugly nature of the game, it was difficult for either team to create any rhythm on the offensive end.
“I think everyone was going to the line tonight. When 70 percent of their shots are misses and 68 percent of ours, then everything is a loose ball,” Miles said. “That’s hard to officiate and that’s hard to play. Players started to drive it harder and rebounds are more contested, so it’s just an ugly game.”