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Penn State’s Newbill leads Nits over Nebraska in BIG 10 tourney opener

CHICAGO (AP) – D.J. Newbill sees the Big Ten tournament as a shot at redemption for Penn State. It was nearly the stage for a big collapse, too.

Newbill scored 26 points, Shep Garner added 19 and Penn State hung on to beat Nebraska 68-65 Wednesday in the Big Ten tournament opener.

The 13th-seeded Nittany Lions (17-15) advanced in the tournament for the first time since a run to the final in 2011, despite letting a 16-point lead in the second half dwindle to one.

They came away with their second-straight win after dropping six in a row when Shavon Shields missed a 3 for 12th-seeded Nebraska (13-18) at the buzzer.

Penn State will play No. 5 seed Iowa on Thursday.

”We’re disappointed in how we finished in Big Ten play,” Newbill said. ”We’ve got another opportunity to come out here and prove to ourselves and prove to everybody we’re better than what we showed.”

Garner hit five 3-pointers. Newbill nailed four from long range and keyed a 14-1 run early in the second half that stretched the lead from three to 16. Penn State also blocked a tournament-record 16 shots.

The loss was the ninth straight for Nebraska, which got 29 points from Terran Petteway. Shields scored 20 and grabbed 10 rebounds. But after making the NCAA tournament last season, the Cornhuskers are on the outside looking in.

”As excited as I was last year is as disappointed as I am this year,” coach Tim Miles said. ”And I talked a lot of trash on the golf course last year so I was pretty pumped up.”

He believes that the program is headed in the right direction, that the incoming recruits will provide a big lift. But enduring a run like this has not been easy.

Things got so bad that Miles actually banned his players from their plush locker room and forbade them from speaking to reporters following a 28-point blowout by Iowa last month.

”It wears on you,” Miles said. ”You go to the shopping center with your head down, the grocery store with your head down, and hope you don’t run into everybody and have to regurgitate what you’re going through.”

Nebraska was within 63-62 after Shields hit two free throws with 3:03 left. Newbill then scored on a layup for Penn State and Ross Travis hit a free throw to make it a four-point game with 2:18 remaining.

Petteway hit a free throw and added two more with 42.7 seconds left after being fouled on a drive, making it 66-65.

Newbill missed a floater with about eight seconds left, setting off a scramble and a jump ball with the possession arrow pointing to Penn State.

Geno Thorpe caught the inbounds and hit two free throws to make it a three-point game with 4.2 seconds. The Nittany Lions hung on when Shields’ pull-up 3 from the right wing hit the front of the rim.

Penn State looked like it was ready to run away with this one after mounting a 14-1 run early in the second and breaking open a 37-34 game.

Newbill scored eight during that stretch and wrapped two 3-pointers around a free throw by Nebraska’s Moses Abraham.

Garner then nailed another 3 for Penn State, making it 51-35 with just fewer than 16 minutes left. But instead of bowing quietly, Nebraska responded by scoring 14 in a row.

Tai Webster buried a 3 after Abraham missed a free throw, cutting it to 51-49 with 9:47 left. Garner pulled up for one of his own, triggering an 8-2 spurt, but the Cornhuskers stayed in it, a putback by Abraham making it 62-60 with about four minutes left.

”When things got tight there, we responded,” Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said. ”We attacked the situation. We made some big plays and finally got some timely rebounds and Geno hit some really big-time free-throws for us.”

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