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February 11, 2012Just when you thought Nebraska had hit rock bottom this season, the Huskers found a way to reach a new low on Saturday afternoon.
Going up against the last-place team in the Big Ten Conference standings in Penn State, NU looked as lost and out of sync as ever in what mercifully ended in a 67-51 loss to the Nittany Lions.
After putting up 30 points in the first meeting in Lincoln, PSU guard Tim Frazier had one of his best all-around efforts of the season by coming just one assist shy of a triple-double with 23 points, 10 rebounds and nine dimes while also adding three steals.
The Huskers, on the other hand, simply had no answer on either end of the court. Their offensive woes continued, shooting just 39.6 percent, including going 6-of-20 from 3-point range, and being out-rebounded 33-24. Defensively, NU allowed Penn State to shoot 52.3 percent despite coming in as the worst shooting team in the conference.
With the loss, Nebraska has now dropped four games in a row, with Saturday's coming against a Nittany Lion team that came in on a five-game losing streak of its own. The Huskers are now tied with Penn State for last place in the conference.
"You've got to give Penn State credit," head coach Doc Sadler said during his post-game interview on the Husker Sports Network. "They came out and made shots today. I've never had a team that had to play as much zone to try and stop someone. We just didn't have a good basketball game. We didn't defend the way we've got to defend on the road.
"I thought we played hard, but we're not playing with any purpose. We're just out there playing right now. We've got to figure out the purpose of what we're trying to do, and understand that you've got some guys out there that can help you if you'll let them. That's being teammates. Hopefully we'll get that figured out."
The game lived up to it's offensively challenged billing through the first few minutes of the first half, as both teams struggled to get much going with the basketball.
Penn State eventually took charge first with just under nine minutes left in the half by going on a 10-0 run with the help of a three-minute scoring drought by the Huskers, putting the Nittany Lions up 27-17 with six minutes to go.
A couple minutes later, six straight points by guard Cammeron Woodyard gave PSU its biggest lead of the half at 33-21 with 3:42 remaining, and the Lions would eventually take a 36-26 lead into halftime.
Coming into the game ranked dead last in the Big Ten with a team shooting percentage of just 38.3 percent, Penn State shot 57.9 percent from the floor in the first half, led by 11 from Woodyard.
The Huskers, on the other hand, shot just 38.5 percent as a team and were 3-of-11 from beyond the arc.
"They did make some shots, but at the same time, you know, they are the worst shooting field goal percentage team in college basketball as far as the BCS schools are concerned," Sadler said. "We wanted to maybe challenge (them to shoot), but at the same time maybe weren't concerned with the 3-point shot. Today they made more than they normally make."
Things didn't get any better in the second half, as Penn State extended its lead to 18 after a 3-pointer the old fashioned way by Frazier that capped an 8-0 run and made it 51-38 with 13:30 left. Junior guard Dylan Talley, who led NU with 12 points, hit a 3 on the ensuing possession, snapping a nearly six-minute scoring drought by the Huskers.
Nebraska never got within 13 points the rest of the game, and the only real excitement down the stretch was whether Frazier would pick up enough assists to record Penn State's first triple-double since 1998.
Woodyard ended the day with 14 points, with all of his made field goals coming from beyond arc.
Having now played four games in just 10 days, the Huskers will get a much needed week off before hosting Illinois next Saturday, with tip-off set for 4 p.m. CT.
"You've got a week here that maybe we can do a few things," Sadler said, "but we've got to get back to playing with a purpose, and right now this team doesn't have a purpose, and that's my responsibility to make sure that we get one. We're just out there playing. We look like we're not for sure.
"To have been playing so well and then the last four basketball games, for it to go south, you know, I understand there's some reasons it's out of your control, but there's a lot of things that are in our control that we've got to get back. We can only be concerned with what is in our control and do a much better job."