STATE COLLEGE —
After Nebraska freshman Shavon Shields had his best collegiate scoring game, his coach Tim Miles grinned then pointed at another statistic that stood out to him about his talented guard: Six turnovers.
Miles doesn’t want Shields to ever be content.
“We have to keep these freshmen in line,” Miles joked after Shields scored a career-high 29 points as Nebraska held off Penn State 68-64 on Saturday.
“He just keeps getting better and better,” the Huskers coach continued. “I think I told him the other day, there’s no ceiling here. There’s no ceiling. Don’t just be happy with (18 points) or whatever you’re at because the sky’s the limit and just keep playing and expand your game.”
Shields went 10 of 11 from the floor and made all eight of his free throws for Nebraska, who survived against a Penn State squad that struggled to hit its free throws down the stretch.
Penn State trailed by three points with 24 seconds left in the game before Nebraska’s Brandon Ubel was called for a flagrant foul on D.J. Newbill. The foul gave Penn State two extra free throws.
Newbill made one of two free throws and Ross Travis missed the next two from the line. Newbill failed to convert on two more free throws in the final 14 seconds, helping the Huskers (10-9, 1-5 Big Ten) escape with the victory.
As a team, the Huskers went 16 of 16 from the free throw line while the Nittany Lions shot just 15 of 24 in the same category.
“Free throw shooting, for us is about mental toughness,” Miles said. “It’s like a golf swing. Nobody’s guarding you, it’s just you and yourself doing the same thing over and over so stick to your routine.”
While Penn State (8-10, 0-6) missed out on a handful of opportunities at the line late in the game to cut into Nebraska’s lead, Nittany Lions coach Patrick Chambers alluded to another issue for his squad when asked what made the difference.
“We didn’t play hard in the first 20 minutes. I was shocked, absolutely shocked,” Chambers said. “We had two great practices, a short shoot around this morning. We were in a good place with good energy and just came out and ... I don’t know.
“We didn’t deserve to win to be truthful. You have to play for 40 minutes in this league.”
Penn State trailed 33-28 at the end of the first half, but quickly went on a
12-0 run. A short jumper by Travis at the 11:56 mark of the second half put the Nittany Lions ahead at 43-41. It was their first lead since Nebraska trailed 7-6 with a little more than 13 minutes remaining in the first half.
Guard Jermaine Marshall, who scored all of his 18 points in the second half, was fouled shooting a three with 8:11 remaining, and made all three of his shots from the line to put Penn State ahead 52-48 – its largest lead of the half.
Nebraska countered with nine straight points, capped by an easy fast break layup by Ray Gallegos off a Newbill turnover with a more than four minutes remaining to quiet the home crowd in the Bryce Jordan Center.
Miles said after the win that keeping Marshall and Newbill - Penn State’s two leading scores - in check was key for the Huskers.
“We had to,” Miles said. “That was the first thing, getting to those two and cutting the head off the monster.”
Gallegos knocked down a 3-pointer a couple minutes after his fast break lay in to fend off Penn State, who had cut the Huskers’ lead to three. Marshall converted a three-point play to make the score 61-58.
Gallegos, who finished with 15 points, hit three 3-pointers in the game, but both teams struggled mightily from beyond the arc. Nebraska shot 4-of-13 from the 3-point line, while the Nittany Lions shot 5 of 20.