Isaac Copeland - Photo by Isabel Thalken/Nebraska Communications
Courtesy Nebraska Athletic Communications
Lincoln - Isaac Copeland recorded a double-double with 17 points and 12 rebounds and Nebraska led wire-to-wire, defeating Penn State by a 76-64 margin to reach the 22-win mark to close the regular season in front of a sellout crowd of 15,991 on Sunday at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
Nebraska improves to 22-9 in the regular season, and 13-5 in the Big Ten, the most conference wins in a season in school history. The Huskers also finished the Big Ten season unbeaten at home, the first time NU has accomplished that since the 1965-66 season. On the season, NU went 16-1 at Pinnacle Bank Arena, which marks the best home season by winning percentage since 1982-83. Penn State falls to 19-12 on the year and 9-9 in the league.
With the win, Nebraska clinches the fourth seed in this week's Big Ten Tounament, which is held at Madison Square Garden in New York City. With the fourth-place finish, NU earned a double-bye and will play its first game in New York in the quarterfinal round on Friday.
Copeland led four Huskers in double figures, as Isaiah Roby scored 13 points and added seven boards while batting both an illness and foul trouble. Glynn Watson Jr. and James Palmer Jr. both talled 11 points, while seniors Anton Gill and Evan Taylor added nine and seven points, respectively, on Senior Day. Nebraska honored Gill and Taylor, as well as Duby Okeke and Malcolm Laws prior to the game.
The story early on Sunday Copeland who hit his first three shots and scored Nebraska’s first seven points, including a dunk over a Penn State defender to begin the game.
The two teams were closely matched early on, before Nebraska embarked on an 11-0 run midway through the first half that put the Big Red on top 19-7. Jordy Tshimanga scored the last six points of that run, forcing a Penn State timeout.
Nebraska continued to play well on both sides of the ball, going on a 6-0 run of its own to take a 25-10 lead, as Penn State would not cut the lead to single digits for the rest of the half before NU took its largest lead of the half into the break at 34-17.
The Huskers held Penn State to just 26 percent from the floor in the first half, and just 16 percent from long range. Nebraska shot 44 percent in the half and outscored Penn State 26-8 in the painted area, while holding a 17-0 advantage in points off the bench.
Copeland led the Huskers with 10 first-half points, while Tshimanga had eight tallies.
Out of the break at halftime, Penn State scored the first five points of the second half, but NU held off that surge and went on a 6-0 run to take a 41-22 lead on a dunk from James Palmer Jr.
The Huskers went on a 6-0 run midway through the half to give Nebraska its largest lead of the game at 49-28, capped by a three-pointer from Gill.
Tony Carr kept Penn State within striking distance, scoring the next 14 Penn State points to cut the NU lead to 61-46, before baskets from Roby and Copeland put NU ahead 66-48. Watson scored five-consecutive points to give Nebraska a 71-57 lead, and the Huskers cruised to the finish line and iced the game at the charity stripe.
For the game, Nebraska hit nearly 50 percent of its shots from the floor, and outscored Penn State 46-28 in the paint. NU dominated the boards on Sunday, outrebounding Penn State by a 45-28 total, with 14 of NU's boards of the offensive variety, leading to a 22-6 advantage in second-chance points. The Nebraska bench outscored Penn State's, 32-8, and NU held Penn State to 40 percent shooting, well below its average of 47 percent coming into the afternoon.
Carr, the Big Ten's leading scorer, led the Nittany Lions with 27 points, including 19 in the second half. Lamar Stevens added 13 points, while Shep Garner added 11 tallies.
The Huskers will travel to New York City Wednesday, and await their opponent in the quarterfinal round of the Big Ten Tournament. Nebraska will face the winner of the matchup between Michigan and the winner of the game between the 12 and 13 seeds. Friday's tip-off is set for approximately 1:30 (CT), and will be televised on the Big Ten Network and broadcast on the Husker Sports Network.