D.J. Newbill led with 16 points, a late 19-9 run in the game's closing minutes put the Nittany Lions ahead, and for the first time this season, the Penn State men's basketball team won a conference game.
Ending a six-game losing streak to open the Big Ten schedule, the Nittany Lions' 58-54 win against the visiting Nebraska Cornhuskers was important, but not a cause for celebration, according to Penn State head coach Patrick Chambers.
"There's no sigh of relief," he said. "To me, next game on the schedule. If we won or lost, I'm going to wake up tomorrow and do my job to the best of my ability. That's all I know and that's the way I'm going to stay."
Oddly enough, statistically, the game may have amounted to one of the Nittany Lions' worst performance of the Big Ten schedule.
Shooting just 35.1 percent from the floor as a team for the game, Penn State (10-10 overall; 1-6 Big Ten) trailed Nebraska (9-9; 1-5) throughout.
Stressing his team's need to make "winning plays" in the closing minutes of games the Nittany Lions had been competitive in throughout the year, on Thursday night, Penn State finally got it as a late-game surge saw the Nittany Lions take a lead in the final minutes.
In the press, senior point guard Tim Frazier dived to make a steal against Nebraska's Deverell Biggs at halfcourt. Popping the ball out of Biggs' hands, Frazier dove to the floor, found a streaking Newbill down the right side of the court.
Hitting the outlet in stride, Newbill slamed home a one-hand jam as Nebraska's Shavon Shields fouled him.
"It was one play of many," Frazier said. "There's a lot of plays that played into it. Obviously that's the play that will be magnified because it was so magnificent. That's something we've been trying to do the past couple of games, finish the game, and tonight we finally did."
The turnover and dunk gave the Nittany Lions a 53-51 lead with just a minute to play and, maybe more important, sent a stagnant Bryce Jordan Center crowd of 5,705 fans to its feet.
Having trailed 29-22 at the half, Chambers identified the play as a much-needed spark.
"That first half was brutal," he said. "The crowd was ready and they wanted to get into the game. We had some really good looks on threes they just weren't falling. That play definitely gave us some momentum."
It wouldn't be the end, though.
Geno Thorpe, coming off the bench for the first time in the game with just 2 minutes, 13 seconds remaining, grabbed a critical rebound off a missed Nebraska 3-pointer with just 49 seconds left to play.
On the ensuing possession, Frazier's quick pass to John Johnson in front of the Nittany Lions' bench with single-digits on the shot clock led to a drained 3-pointer, giving Penn State it's largest lead of the game, 5 points, with just 18 seconds left to play.
Deja vu ducked its head in again, seemingly just to make sure Penn State was on its toes.
Quickly getting back up the floor, the Cornhuskers gasped for life on a made Terran Petteway 3-pointer with 12 seconds remaining. Though the Lions led 56-54, even then the game's outcome was still in doubt.
A forced Newbill turnover off the inbounds, sailing over Donovon Jack's head and out of bounds near midcourt, gave Nebraska possession with just 10 seconds left on the clock.
"I thought our kids kept fighting," Nebraska head coach Tim Miles said. Coughing up their own inbounds with just 3 seconds left to play, Nebraska saw the potential comeback slip away when Frazier nailed two free throws at the other end off the foul. "We had basically given the game up with some silly turnovers earlier than that, but you just gotta keep fighting. We got a chance at the end and then turned it over again."
Evening up to .500 for the season and coming off a stretch of close losses that have seen Penn State lose 5 of 10 by three points or less this year, Frazier (11 points, 6 assists) identified the win as being especially satisfying.
"I think it's great for us," he said. "Our last couple of games, we've been right there and we were finally able to finish out a game. The ball bounced our way."
Penn State returns to action Wednesday night in Columbus to take on the Ohio State Buckeyes. Tip-off is at 7 o'clock.