STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — A near-record performance from freshman Shavon Shields and a Penn State meltdown at the free-throw line in the final 25 seconds helped Nebraska on Saturday claim its first Big Ten men's basketball win 68-64.
Shields, a 6-foot-6 wing, scored 29 points on 10 of 11 field goals and 8 of 8 free throws. His previous high had been 18 points on Wednesday against Purdue.
“He was phenomenal,” NU coach Tim Miles said.
The 29 points matched the second-best scoring performance by a true freshman at NU. Former NBA veteran Tyronn Lue scored 30 vs. Oregon in 1995. Ryan Anderson scored 29 against Hawaii in 2006.
“It was a great win for the Huskers,” Miles said. “We played pretty well for a while. We got punched in the face for a while.”
Nebraska (10-9, 1-5) built 10-point leads in both halves, fell behind, then survived a controversial officiating decision at the end to knock off Penn State (8-10, 0-6).
After the Nittany Lions cut NU's lead to 66-63 with about 30 seconds left, they applied a full-court press.
Husker forward Brandon Ubel was double-teamed in the corner, but passed to a teammate. Nebraska then turned the ball over and fouled PSU's D.J. Newbill in the act of shooting with 24.6 seconds left.
The officiating crew, as per a new rule, went to the TV monitor to review contact during the double team, checking Ubel's left elbow brushing the face of PSU's Ross Travis.
The officials eventually ruled Ubel's contact merited a Flagrant 1 foul, which results in two free throws plus possession of the ball. Also, the flagrant foul doesn't negate the result of the play, which was a foul in the act of shooting against Nebraska.
So Penn State received four free throws and the ball when down 66-63, all with 24.6 seconds left. But the Nittany Lions couldn't take advantage.
Newbill made the first of his two free throws to cut NU's lead to 66-64. Travis then missed both free throws. On the possession, Ubel fouled PSU's Jermaine Marshall with 15.9 seconds left, but he missed both free throws.
Ubel, in his first game back after missing two with an elbow fracture, hit two free throws with 14.1 seconds left — capping a 16-for-16 day for Nebraska at the line — then blocked a shot with seven seconds left to clinch the win.
Miles said he was unclear on the flagrant foul, then was given an incorrect interpretation from an official.
“I don't know,” he said of the ruling. “But I'll be an expert on it by the end of the day.”
When Ubel missed the Michigan State game, Spartans coach Tom Izzo speculated that Nebraska had played better without the senior because NU had a quicker defensive lineup.
Miles squashed that theory.
“Anybody who thinks we're better off without him is nuts,” the coach said. Ubel, in 31 minutes, had 12 points, six rebounds, three assists, two blocks and no turnovers.
As for Shields, he added six rebounds and three steals to his 29 points.
“I told him the sky is the limit for him,” Miles said. “Don't put a ceiling over yourself. Just play. Keep making plays. You've got the freedom to do it this year, especially. Let's see how you can grow and develop.
“We're going to improve his shot, too. His outside shot is really going to come along. He's got a good finish, but we've got to get his grip squared away. He's just going to keep getting better.”
Miles good-naturedly noted that Shields also had six turnovers.
“He almost had a triple-double,” Miles joked. “You've got to keep those freshmen in line.”
Nebraska has two home games this week: Tuesday against Illinois and Saturday against Northwestern.