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Northwestern vs. Nebraska, 2.16

Nebraska forward Isaiah Roby (right) steals the ball and drives down the court against Northwestern's Ryan Taylor on earlier this month at Pinnacle Bank Arena.

Look up "ghastly" in the dictionary, and it's just a list of Nebraska's basketball losses to Penn State away from Lincoln the past five years.

The Huskers have played the Nittany Lions either in Happy Valley or the Big Ten Tournament six times since their last win at the Bryce Jordan Center. All six have been defeats, and all six have had their own version of pain for the team in red.

Nebraska could stand to avoid the pain this season in a game set for a 6 p.m. tip-off Tuesday smack in the middle of the Keystone State.

"We're just prepared to win three in a row. That's all we're worried about," NU guard James Palmer said. "Now that we've got two in a row, we've got to keep going and not just be happy with these two. We've still got a lot of things to do."

The Huskers (15-11, 5-10 Big Ten) have brightened the light on the path to a potential NCAA Tournament bid with back-to-back wins, against Minnesota and Northwestern. A road win against Penn State — one that as of Monday would go in the books as a Quad 1 victory — would set NU up for a potential charge over its final four regular-season games.

But it won't be easy. The demons of past losses to the Nittany Lions (9-16, 2-12) loom large:

* In its last trip to State College, in January 2018, Nebraska trailed by 16 points with 17 minutes left before losing by two in overtime. The Huskers shot 9-for-32 from the field in the first half.

* At the 2017 Big Ten Tournament, NU fell behind by 11 in the game's first 10 minutes and still trailed by 10 with 10 minutes to go before rallying to force overtime and eventually losing by nine.

* In February 2016, the Huskers trailed by eight at halftime and by 18 with 14 minutes left before losing 56-55.

* In March 2015, Nebraska was down 16 with 16 minutes left before missing a game-tying three-pointer in the final seconds of a 68-65 loss at the Big Ten Tournament.

* One month before that loss, NU trailed by 20 with 15 minutes left before cutting the deficit to three in a 56-43 loss. The Huskers scored just 13 points in the first half.

* And in January 2014, Nebraska gave up an 11-3 run in the game's final 2 minutes, 24 seconds to lose 58-54.

"We've had all these close games, but we need to get out to a quick start. That's the thing we've failed doing," NU coach Tim Miles said. "The last three times we've been there we've had a huge deficit early, then had to fight our way back out of that hole."

Fighting out of the hole of a seven-game losing streak with two straight victories has put NU back on course. But Penn State is no easy out. Of the Nittany Lions' 12 conference losses, a whopping eight are by nine points or fewer. And in its last home game, Penn State beat No. 6 Michigan 75-69.

Then the Huskers will play four consecutive ranked teams to end the season. 

If you've done the math, that's five straight Quad 1 games to close out the year, and five opportunities to flip the narrative of a season gone crooked.

"Here's what I told them: isn't every game right now a Quad 1 game? So what's the difference between this one and the next one?" Miles said. "You just go out every night with the idea that there's a way to win that game, and let's figure it out."

Reach the writer at 402-473-7436 or On Twitter @HuskerExtraCB.


Husker basketball reporter

A Ravenna native, Chris covers the University of Nebraska men's basketball team and assists with football coverage. He spent nearly 10 years covering sports at the Kearney Hub and nearly four years at the Springfield News-Leader in Springfield, Mo.

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