Game 1 recap: Mike Watkins, Penn State down Nebraska in OT

Game 1 recap: Mike Watkins, Penn State down Nebraska in OT

WASHINGTON — Penn State arrived in Washington on a five-game losing streak, but that didn’t dim the confidence of this squad. This is a program in the midst of maturing around a talented corps of three freshmen in Tony Carr, Lamar Stevens and Mike Watkins. And those three played well in helping the Nittany Lions take down Nebraska … especially Watkins.

No. 13 PSU took a 76-67 OT win vs. No. 12 Nebraska and will play No. 5 Michigan State on Thursday. In 2015, Penn State was a No. 13 seed and went 2-1, advancing to the quarterfinals. The Nittany Lions have appeared in one title game, coming in 2011. Nebraska’s season ends with a five-game losing skid as questions loom over the program.

Here’s a look at the best from Penn State’s opening-round win vs. Nebraska.

Top star: Mike Watkins, Penn State. The 6-9 redshirt freshman was a force, scoring a game-high 18 points on 9-of-12 shooting to go with 11 rebounds and a Big Ten tourney single-game record eight blocks.

Top stat line: Watkins did it all for PSU, hitting 9-of-12 shots (75 percent) and pulling down 11 rebounds with eight blocks and two steals. Hat’s off to Lamar Stevens, too, as he hit 5-of-9 shots (2-of-2 from 3-point land) with five rebounds en route to tallying 16 points.

Top stat: 8, blocks for Penn State’s Mike Watkins, which, as mentioned above, is an event record.

Top dunk: With under 12 minutes left in the game, Nebraska big man Jordy Tshimanga drove the lane and delivered a monstrous dunk with all of his 275 pounds behind it to cut Penn State’s lead to 47-41.

It was over when: Penn State saw a 53-44 lead with 7:37 left melt away and had to go to OT with the tilt tied 60-60. That’s where the Nittany Lions took care of business. A Lamar Stevens three-pointer gave PSU a 63-60 lead, and it never looked back. The Nits took control with an impossibly deep 3-pointer from Shep Garner that circled the rim and fell through to give PSU a 68-62 lead with 2:16 left. The Nittany Lions went on to take a 76-67 victory.

Did you see that? With a little over five minutes to play, Nebraska’s Tai Webster fell while defending Tony Carr …. and lost a shoe in the process. Carr dished to Mike Watkins who dunked the ball to give PSU a 55-46 lead.

Notable:

  • The only senior on either roster was Nebraska’s Tai Webster.
  • Nebraska finished with 19 losses, its most in a season since 2002-03. The 19 defeats tie the school single-season mark, as NU dropped its final five tilts.
  • Penn State never trailed.
  • Mike Watkins set the PSU single-season record for rebounds which stood since 1952.

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Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer

About Tom Dienhart: BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men's basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, and send him questions to his weekly mailbag.

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