The primary lesson from Penn State’s 56-55 win over Nebraska at the Jordan Center Thursday night?
It is much better to win ugly than to lose ugly.
Despite blowing an 18-point second half lead, the Nittany Lions got a late free throw from Shep Garner and then made one last defensive stand to hold off the Cornhuskers by a single point Thursday night.
The perspective on that came Feb. 13 in Lincoln, when PSU self-destructed in the second half against Nebraska. The Lions were down by as many as 28 in that debacle before losing 70-54.
PSU has since won three straight in the Big Ten for the first time since early February of 2014. And every victory — no matter how ugly — is sweet.
“I think that’s a great win for us,” said forward Brandon Taylor, who logged 19 points and 10 rebounds Thursday. “We grinded it out, and in past years we might have not won that game. That’s a great job from everybody … that’s a great win. You only have to win by one, so we’ll take it.”
Added PSU coach Pat Chambers: “It is a win and we’re going to enjoy it. And it is our third in a row, and I want those guys to enjoy it because they worked so hard all week. That team was up 30 on us at their place.”
THREE FOR ALL
In the blowout loss at Nebraska, Penn State was 6 of 23 from the 3-point line. Guard Shep Garner was 0 of 7.
Thursday, the Lions made 11 of 25 triples and Garner was good on 5 of 10, finishing with 22 points.
“Guys are shooting with great confidence,” Chambers said. “We’re working everyday on shooting and those guys are getting in extra shooting on their own, and that’s why you earn the right to make shots. That’s why shots are falling for us at home. So it’s really great to see.”
Nebraska coach Tim Miles admitted he gambled on PSU having another tough night from the arc. The Cornhuskers doubled the post consistently.
“If we go in and double, we can take away a high-percentage play,” Miles said. “They only shot 40 percent from the field, but when you look at their adjusted percentage (with) threes, it’s going to be much higher than that. They made us pay for it with their 3-pointers. They were smart that way because they hurt us in other ways. They are a 29-percent 3-point shooting team … are they going to do it? And they did it. We have to credit them.”
THREE IN A ROW
Penn State had not won three straight Big Ten regular-season games since early February of 2014. Prior to that, it had not been done since … drum roll, please … 2009.
That team actually won four in a row.
What about PSU’s 2010-11 NCAA Tournament team?
It won two straight B1G regular-season games three times, but never three in a row. Of course, that squad did win three straight at the 2011 conference tournament.
IN GOOD STANDING
With the win Thursday, Penn State improved to 6-9 in the Big Ten and climbed into sole possession of ninth-place in the standings. It is just ahead of Nebraska (6-10) and Northwestern (5-10).
Why does that matter?
Because the top 10 teams in the conference get opening-day byes at the Big Ten Tournament. So one of the three will NOT get a bye.
Here are the remaining schedules for all three teams.
Penn State: @ No. 6 Michigan State, Northwestern, Illinois.
Nebraska: No. 20 Purdue, @ Northwestern
Northwestern: Rutgers, @ Penn State, Nebraska
BY THE NUMBERS
• Only three players reached double figures in scoring Thursday — Garner, Taylor and Nebraska forward Shavon Shields (25). Shields had missed four games with a concussion but looked as strong as ever.
• Cornhusker guard Andrew White, who went off for a career-high 35 in the previous meeting, was held to eight points on 3-of-10 shooting in this one. Chambers prepared his team for White by having assistant coach Dwyane Anderson — a former Villanova standout — handle his role on the practice squad.
• After starting the Big Ten season 2-8, the Lions are now 4-1 in their last five games.
PSU center Julian Moore was out with an undisclosed injury but should be back for the next game.
“He will be back,” Chambers said. “He is healthy and will be back on Sunday.”
Speaking of which…
Penn State is on the road to face No. 6 Michigan State Sunday. The game tips at noon and can be seen on BTN.
The Spartans have won seven of their last eight games.
PSU, MSU and Indiana are now tied for the longest winning streaks in the Big Ten at three games each.