At this time of the year, there is no such thing as an ugly win. But there are stressful victories -- sometimes unnecessarily so.
Such was the case in the Big Ten Tournament at the United Center in Chicago Wednesday, when No. 13 seed Penn State built a 16-point second-half advantage over struggling No. 12 seed Nebraska. Then the Nittany Lions had to hold on for dear life when their weak rebounding, awful free-throw shooting and sloppy ball-handling allowed the Cornhuskers back in it.
The Nittany Lions (17-15, 4-14) advance to a quarterfinal matchup with No. 5 seed Iowa Thursday. The game tips at 2:30 p.m. and can be seen on BTN.
Terran Petteway led Nebraska (13-18, 5-13) with 29 points, but his loss of composure early in the second half proved extremely costly as the Cornhuskers' disappointing season ended with nine straight losses.
Penn State led 40-34 early in the second half when Petteway drove to the basket and had his shot blocked by Lion Donovon Jack. Petteway fell to the ground, and yapped at the official as he got up, drawing the technical.
Newbill made the two free throws and then buried a 3-pointer, and just like that the lead was 45-34. It turned into an 11-1 run and PSU went up 51-35 when Shep Garner made a trey at the 15:47 mark.
The Lions began playing like they had the game won, and slipped into a funk. They did not score for more than six minutes. They began bricking free throws. And they allowed Nebraska to crash the offensive glass, and in the process extend possessions.
Tai Webster's 3-pointer at 9:44 capped a 14-0 run and cut the lead to 51-49.
To Penn State's credit, it never panicked when the Cornhuskers got close. At this point, Garner bombed in a 3-pointer, and State eventually went back out in front by eight, 59-51. But Nebraska still did not go away.
It boiled down to the Lions holding a 66-65 lead after Petteway made two free throws with :43 showing. For some reason, PSU milked time, and Newbill tried a wild drive in the lane to beat the shot clock.
He missed and it led to a scrum on the floor, and the officials called a jump ball at :05. The arrow was pointing Penn State's way.
Nebraska fouled Thorpe as soon as he grabbed the inbound pass. He made both, as PSU finished the game 13 of 22 from the stripe.
The Cornhuskers got a 3-point look from forward Shavon Shields before the buzzer but it was no good.
Newbill's 26 points tied for the most ever by a PSU player at Big Tens (Tim Frazer vs. Indiana in 2012; Gyasi Cline-Heard vs. Iowa in 2001).
Garner finished with 19 for the Lions, making 6 of 11 shots and 5 of 8 3-pointers.
The 16 blocks were also the most ever by one Big Ten team against another.
Brandon Taylor (five) and Newbill (four) both had career highs in blocks.
PSU hit 9 of 22 3-pointers.
ESPN2 announcer Mike Tirico and Dan Dakich had some fun calling what was clearly an ugly game to watch.
PSU is now assured of finishing the regular season at .500 or better for the first time in Chambers' four years at the helm.
Penn State had not won a Big Ten Tournament game since making it to the final in 2011.
Newbill now has 62 career points in the tournament, which is tied for eighth in school history (with David Jackson).
Besides Newbill, Garner and Taylor (eight), no other Lion scored more than five points.
The Lions allowed Nebraska to grab 26 offensive rebounds, which led to 20 points. The PSU big guys were shoved around all game.
PSU center Jordan Dickerson fouled out after playing only eight minutes. Jack had his typical four fouls in 11 minutes.
Is any team more demonstrative against the officials than the Cornhuskers? It starts with head coach Tim Miles. And the players clearly take their cue from him. This even though they shot nine more free throws and were called for five fewer fouls than the Lions. If Nebraska plays with any level of composure in this game, it probably wins.
Speaking of the officials, yow. Some ridiculously bad calls (and non-calls) both ways.