UNIVERSITY PARK - A few times already this season, the Penn State women's basketball team has won games by shutting down teams defensively late in the second half.
On Friday night at the Bryce Jordan Center, the roles were reversed.
The No. 16 Lady Lions missed 29 of their final 32 shots, including 14 in a row at one point, during their 71-63 loss to Nebraska in the Big Ten Conference opener. Penn State (10-3, 0-1 Big Ten) shot 29.4 percent from the field and 23.3 percent in the second half in losing for the first time in seven home games this season.
Alex Bentley had 22 points and Maggie Lucas scored 18 to lead the Lady Lions. The two players combined to miss 31 shots.
"We just didn't have offensive patience," Penn State coach Coquese Washington said. "We didn't work hard enough to get the ball inside and put pressure on them. We played outside-in for most of the night. We never really got into a flow. We never really got into a rhythm offensively."
No. 23 Nebraska (12-1, 1-0) won its sixth straight game and continued its surprising start following a 13-18 season by pulling off the upset in its first-ever Big Ten Conference game. Jordan Hooper, the conference's second-leading scorer, had 31 points and 12 rebounds. Lindsey Moore added 16 points.
"I told our kids in [the] shoot-around that this was a historic moment," Nebraska coach Connie Yori said about the program's Big Ten debut. "There's always going to be a trivia question and, down the road, it's going to be in the media guide. There was a lot to play for from that standpoint."
Nebraska, which trailed by 11 points in the first half, scored the first five points of the second half and grabbed a 43-38 lead. Penn State responded with an 18-4 run over the next six minutes and seemingly had control of the game.
A driving layup from Bentley started the run. Maggie Lucas followed with her only 3-pointer of the night and a layup from Nikki Greene gave the Lady Lions a 45-43 lead. A 3-pointer and one of two free throws from Hooper helped Nebraska tie the game at 47-47 before the Lady Lions scored nine consecutive points.
Bentley scored five points during the spurt and a pair of free throws from Talia East made it 56-47 with 12:53 left in the game.
"We just needed to bear down," Yori said. "We told our kids during a timeout that we were down big to start the game as well. We just had to win the last 12 minutes of the game, and that's essentially what we did."
After East's free throws, the Lady Lions went over five minutes without scoring before Mia Nickson's layup made it 58-52. They wouldn't score again for another three minutes, when Bentley's basket tied the game at 60-60 with 4:35 left.
Bentley said the Lady Lions were rushing their shots throughout the night.
"We just needed to execute our offense, all the way through," Bentley said. "Executing, running the offense and getting better shots."
Hooper, meanwhile, scored 13 points during the final 13 minutes to top the 30-point mark for the third time in the past four games. Her 3-pointer with 17 seconds left gave Nebraska a 69-63 lead and sealed the upset for the Cornhuskers.
"She's just really good," Washington said about Hooper. "We just didn't communicate well defensively. We lost her transition a little bit. With a player like her, you've got to make her work to get touches and not let her get to her sweet spots on the floor. We didn't do that enough."
The Lady Lions have three days to rebound from the loss before they next play Monday at Wisconsin.
"They'll be fine," Washington said. "They're competitors. They're fighters. I think they'll get in the gym tomorrow, and they'll be ticked off, and they'll be ready to get better."
NEBRASKA (12-1): Moore 4-11 7-10 16, Sample 2-5 1-2 5, Burke 1-5 0-0 3, Cady 2-5 0-0 4, Hooper 11-21 5-6 31, Williams 3-4 0-0 6, Jeffery 0-2 0-1 0, Simon 1-1 2-2 4, Sidhu 0-0 0-0 0, Woodberry 1-4 0-0 2. Totals 25-58 15-21 71.
PENN ST. (10-3): Gray 0-7 0-0 0, Bentley 9-25 3-5 22, Nickson 2-9 0-0 4, Lucas 7-22 3-3 18, Greene 4-9 1-4 9, East 0-1 4-4 4, Edwards 3-8 0-1 6, Studevent 0-2 0-0 0, Wolfe 0-0 0-0 0, Waldner 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 25-85 11-17 63.
Halftime-Tied 38-38. 3-Point Goals-Nebraska 6-22 (Hooper 4-11, Burke 1-3, Moore 1-4, Jeffery 0-1, Woodberry 0-3), Penn St. 2-14 (Bentley 1-4, Lucas 1-7, Gray 0-3). Fouled Out-None. Rebounds-Nebraska 53 (Hooper 12), Penn St. 46 (Greene 15). Assists-Nebraska 15 (Burke 6), Penn St. 8 (Bentley 3). Total Fouls-Nebraska 16, Penn St. 14. A-5,116.