STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Nebraska, in its third season of Big Ten men's basketball, is still searching for its first two-game conference winning streak.
NU failed to capitalize on momentum from Monday's upset of No. 17 Ohio State by losing 58-54 Thursday night to Penn State, which entered the game winless in the Big Ten.
The last time the Huskers won back-to-back league games, Doc Sadler was the coach and they played in the Big 12 (mid-February 2011).
Nebraska (9-9, 1-5) led by nine points in the first half, by seven at halftime, by six with 6:43 to play and by four with 2:24 to go.
But turnovers and a stagnant offense late allowed the Nittany Lions (10-10, 1-6) to rally for their first win in 32 days and first win in six games decided by five points or less.
“It was just an embarrassment the last two minutes of the game,” NU coach Tim Miles said on his radio show. “Just the lack of execution and the decision-making that went into those plays ... it was just too bad.”
Penn State flipped the game late with hustle plays.
Down 51-48, the Nittany Lions missed a 3-pointer. But PSU forward Donovon Jack outfought NU forward Shavon Shields for the rebound and put it in to close to 51-50 with 1:18 left.
On the ensuing possession, Penn State guard Tim Frazier stole the ball from Husker guard Deverell Biggs. Frazier fired a pass to guard D.J. Newbill for a dunk and a foul from Shields. Newbill's free throw put PSU up 53-51 with 1:05 to go.
Nebraska had a final chance to tie or win when Penn State, up 56-54, fired an inbounds pass out of bounds with 10.4 seconds left.
But Biggs bobbled the ball and was tied up for a jump, with PSU getting possession with 2.7 seconds left. Frazier hit two free throws to clinch the win in the largely empty and quiet Bryce Jordan Arena.
Turnovers were key all night. Penn State scored 22 points off 14 NU turnovers. Nebraska scored only one point off PSU's five turnovers.
“I wasn't pleased with any of our point guard play,” Miles said. Biggs, Tai Webster and Benny Parker combined to shoot 3 of 12 from the field and committed seven turnovers to four assists.
Miles also bemoaned a missed opportunity late in the first half after Nebraska stretched a 16-15 lead into a 26-17 advantage with 4:38 to play.
But even while Penn State was missing 13 shots in a row, the Huskers saw their lead shrink to four just before halftime.
“That was a really important part of the game,” Miles said. “We just weren't able to extend. And then we made some real simple defensive errors to allow them to score when they hadn't been scoring.
“We kind of relaxed and didn't keep up the defensive intensity.”
Nebraska got 15 points, six rebounds and three assists from forward Terran Petteway. Guard Ray Gallegos added 10. For Penn State, Newbill led four double-figure scorers with 16.
NU's next game is at 5 p.m. Sunday at home against Minnesota (15-5, 4-3). The Gophers have won four of their past six games and are coming off a 13-point romp over No. 9 Wisconsin.