Nebraska nearly overcame 28 percent shooting in the first half, but Penn State held on for a 76-74 overtime win Friday in State College, Pennsylvania.
After building a 33-24 lead at the break, the Nittany Lions (13-6, 3-3 Big Ten) reeled off the first six points of the second half, part of a 9-2 run to push their lead to 42-26 less than 2 minutes into the second half.
But the furious play of Isaac Copeland, a late reawakening by Glynn Watson, and Nebraska's switch to a 1-3-1 zone late in the second half, cooled off and rattled Penn State to close out regulation.
Nebraska coach Tim Miles said on the postgame radio show that the first half was not good. The Huskers lacked energy and looked like they were in slow motion.
Which added up to a disappointing loss after he thought NU did enough to come back and earn a win.
"But we didn't do enough with discipline, with execution," Miles said. "It's disappointing that we didn't come out with the fire until midway through the second half."
The Huskers (12-7, 3-3) cut their deficit to 59-53 when Isaiah Roby hit the first of two free throws. After Penn State answered with a dunk by Lamar Stevens, Copeland countered with a three-pointer with 4:08 remaining to return things to a two-possession game.
Watson scored 12 points in the first 13 minutes of the game, but managed just two over the next 23-plus minutes, until he canned a deep three to cut the Penn State lead to 61-59 with 3:17 to play.
Tony Carr's three-pointer at the other end missed, but the Nittany Lions were called for a foul on the rebound. Watson hit one of two free throws and the lead was 61-60.
Penn State dug out two offensive rebounds on its ensuing possession before Mike Watkins was fouled and hit both free throws for a 63-60 Penn State lead.
Copeland drew a foul on the other end and hit both free throws to cut the deficit to one again.
Penn State's sixth turnover in the final 8 minutes gave the ball back to Nebraska and Copeland tied the game at 63-63 when he was fouled on a curl lob to the hoop and converted the first of two free throws.
The teams traded buckets, the last coming on a Watson pull-up from off the right elbow for another tie at 65.
But Penn State missed the rim twice on its ensuing possession for another turnover on a shot clock violation with less than a minute to play.
Watson's drive to the hoop drew plenty of contact, but no whistle, and the ball went out of bounds off Nebraska with 40.7 seconds left.
Evan Taylor made the defensive play of the game with his steal that gave the Huskers their final possession of regulation coming out of a timeout with 19.7 seconds left. But Watson's deep three from the left wing was off and the rebound was knocked out of bounds, with possession to Penn State with 1.3 seconds left.
Miles wanted a timeout on the NU's final possession of regulation after Watson broke the play off before taking what Miles called a tough shot.
"Tough shots are often bad shots," Miles said.
Carr's three at the horn was off to send the game to overtime.
The teams traded misses, then traded threes before Roby was fouled on a drive to the hoop. He hit both free throws for a 70-68 lead with 2:50 left in overtime.
Following a Penn State miss, it looked like Roby gave Nebraska a four-point lead, but his jumper didn't beat the shot clock and a Watkins put-back at the other end tied the game with under 2 minutes left.
Watson hit the back end of two free throws for a 71-70 Nebraska lead. But Carr answered with a big jump shot for a 72-71 lead and a Watson three at the other end was off the mark.
Carr then drew a foul and made both free throws for a 74-71 lead with 23.6 seconds left.
It wasn't over though, as Roby threaded the needle to Anton Gill for a three from the right corner to tie the game with 14 seconds left. But Carr hit a pull-up jumper with 2.7 seconds left for the 76-74 lead.
Roby's 40-footer at the final horn missed.
Stevens finished with a game-high 26 points for Penn State, while Watkins added 20 and Carr had 17.
Copeland finished with 21 points and eight rebounds and Watson also added 21 points for Nebraska. Roby added a career-high 12 points to go with six rebounds. Nebraska's leading scorer, James Palmer, was hampered by foul trouble throughout the game and finished with five points and four rebounds.
"For as many good things as we did, we did just enough to lose," Miles said.
Nebraska hosts Illinois, currently winless in Big Ten play, at 8 p.m. Monday at Pinnacle Bank Arena.