Shavon Shields nearly put a big exclamation point on his already triumphant return to the Nebraska men’s basketball team.
Shields, a senior forward who’d missed the previous four games with a concussion, scored a game-high 25 points but fell short on a game-winning shot at the buzzer in Nebraska’s 56-55 loss to Penn State on Thursday night at University Park, Pennsylvania.
Nebraska (14-15, 6-10 Big Ten Conference) trailed by 18 points with 14:16 remaining.
That comeback, combined with the return of Shields, gave Nebraska coach Tim Miles some solace despite another frustrating, heartbreaking loss.
“This is going to be good if we let it be good,” Miles said on his postgame radio show. “We haven’t played with this determination in a while. We have to go and play with this determination against Purdue (on Tuesday), because then it will come in bunches.”
Shields, 9-of-17 from the field, was short on an off-balance 15-footer at the buzzer.
Nebraska, with no timeouts, ran a play out of transition for Shields after Penn State's Shep Garner missed the second of two free throws with 7.2 seconds to play.
Garner’s first free throw, after a foul on Tai Webster, gave Penn State (15-13, 6-9 Big Ten Conference) the lead.
“This was a tough-minded team the last 15 minutes,” Miles said. “We controlled the game, dictated the game and got what we wanted.”
Nebraska made and attempted more free throws than Penn State, outrebounded the Nittany Lions by three, outscored them in the paint by 12 and scored more second-chance points, points off turnovers and fast-break points.
Even after shooting an ugly 30.4 percent in the first half, the Huskers shot a better overall percentage than Penn State, too.
The difference, and the killer for Nebraska, wasn’t anything new.
Penn State, shooting 28.9 percent on three-pointers in Big Ten games to rank No. 13 in the league, was 11-of-25 on a Nebraska team that ranked No. 13 in Big Ten games in allowing teams to shoot 39.3 percent on threes.
Most costly were back-to-back three-pointers by Garner and Brandon Taylor, who led Penn State with 22 and 19 points, respectively, after Nebraska had trimmed the deficit to 46-41 with 7:58 remaining.
Nebraska didn’t communicate on switches both times, and earlier in the half had left Garner wide-open on an out-of-bounds play with 3 seconds on the shot clock when he hit a three-pointer to stop a 9-0 Husker run.
Still, Nebraska rallied again.
“It’s like, ‘OK, let’s just throw out everything, go full-court man, pressure the crap out of them, forget about the pack (defense),’” Miles said.
Shields hit a three-pointer and converted a three-point play to pull Nebraska within 55-52 with 3:12 remaining, and Nebraska tied the game 55-55 on two Michael Jacobson free throws with 50.3 seconds to play.
In the first half, Nebraska went 6:57 without a field goal and had little scoring aside from Shields, who accounted for five of the Huskers’ seven field goals.
Miles, knowing guards Andrew White (shoulder) and Glynn Watson (flu) had missed practices, figured Nebraska might be disjointed early.
“I didn’t think we’d be disjointed that long,” Miles said. “Boy, it was just hard for us to get anything going. I thought we’d be more locked in to our game plan.”
White, who scored a career-high 35 points in the Huskers’ 70-54 home victory over Penn State less than two weeks ago, was 3-of-10 from the field, that after he went 3-of-17 Saturday in an overtime loss to Ohio State.
“Shavon, of course, played just dynamite. We couldn’t get Andrew going on anything,” Miles said. “They really didn’t switch to him a whole bunch. They put some quickness on him, but he wasn’t quite where we wanted him locked-in-wise.”