Penn State will try to climb through the logjam in the middle of the Big Ten Conference standings when it visits Nebraska on Sunday afternoon in Lincoln, Neb.
The Nittany Lions (14-8, 5-6) entered the weekend tied for 10th in the 14-team league, but they were only a game out of fourth place and just two games back of second.
With a month left in the regular season, the race for three of the four double byes in the Big Ten tournament is wide open.
It will be the second straight road game for Penn State, which has dropped four in a row away from home including Wednesday’s 80-60 setback at top-ranked Purdue.
This one will be different, as Nebraska (10-13, 3-9) doesn’t have anyone close to the size of 7-foot-4 Boilermakers star Zach Edey.
“You can’t overdo everything, you can’t change your system in two days,” Nittany Lions coach Micah Shrewsberry said. “We need to stay as close to our system as possible, so we can be ready to play on Sunday.”
Nebraska has lost four in a row and six of seven, and its last eight defeats have been by double digits.
That stretch includes a 76-65 loss at Penn State on Jan. 21 that began the four-game skid. That game was also when senior guard Emmanuel Bandoumel suffered a knee injury that required season-ending surgery.
Bandoumel was the second Cornhuskers starter to be lost for the season, with wing Juwan Gary having shoulder surgery earlier this week. As a result, coach Fred Hoiberg likely will start two freshmen for the fourth straight game.
“It’s how we’re built right now,” Hoiberg said. “With Emmanuel and Juwan out of the lineup we’re going to have to switch teams up and keep teams off balance as well as we can.”
A win for Nebraska would surpass last year’s victory total and would also be Hoiberg’s 150th win in nine college seasons. In his fourth season with the program, he is just 34-80 and 12-59 in Big Ten play with the Cornhuskers.
His teams were 115-56 in five seasons at Iowa State.
–Field Level Media