UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - No one said the grind of a Big Ten hoops schedule would be easy. The Nittany Lion basketball team (12-12, 3-8 Big Ten) will head on the road for the eighth time in six weeks when it meets Nebraska (13-12, 5-7 Big Ten) in Lincoln on Saturday.
This week, however, has allowed the Nittany Lions to push the reset button and earn some much-needed extra rest. Penn State took a couple days off earlier in the week during the season's only bye. The time off allowed the team to get a little healthier and regroup for the final run towards the Big Ten Tournament.
But the week didn't slow the momentum from a 68-63 victory over Big Ten-leading Indiana last Saturday night. The Nittany Lions made big plays down the stretch with confidence to power past the Hoosiers.
"I think it's great for us to see guys hit shots like they did in crunch time or get stops on defense," said senior forward Brandon Taylor. "It shows us that when it comes down to it, they can get the job done. That's something that we are trying to string together and add on to the games we have left on the schedule."
"The team is in a good place after a great win," said head coach Patrick Chambers. "They are eager to get back into the gym. They are eager to practice. They are eager to get better and shoot...But we've got to move forward and respond."
Playing 40 minutes of Penn State Basketball has been the message from Coach Chambers throughout the season. The Lions have been close to a complete basketball game all year. It came against Indiana. And a big piece to the success Penn State had on Saturday boiled down to guys making the plays they are expected to make. No one on the floor tried to do more than he was asked to do. But the group made the key plays - on both ends - when they needed to.
"We all understand our roles. Certain people do certain things a lot better than others," said freshman Josh Reaves. "We've been a lot more unselfish recently, too. When someone has an open shot, we have guys passing it to a guy who is even more wide open. That really helps us grow."
Reaves returned to the action against Indiana after being sidelined for six games due to illness.
Attention now shifts towards Nebraska. The Cornhuskers won four-straight Big Ten games in January, but have since dropped four of their last five outings. Nebraska has been without its second-leading scorer, Shavon Shields, since he took a hard fall in last Saturday's 87-63 win over Rutgers. Shields' status for Saturday's game remains uncertain.
Junior guard Andrew White III is Nebraska's leading scorer at 16.9 points per game. White is shooting 50 percent from the field and 41 percent from three-point land. Shields is averaging 15.7 tallies per contest and leads the team in assists with 70 on the season (2.8 per game).
Associate head coach Keith Urgo, who is on the scouting duties of Nebraska this weekend, said the keys for Penn State on Saturday will come down to turnovers, keeping the Huskers off the offensive glass and driving the basketball on offense to get in free throw situations. Tip is slated for 6 p.m. on ESPNU.
"We are just scratching the surface. This team can still get a lot better," said Chambers.
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