LINCOLN, Neb. — It's almost certain that neither Penn State-Nebraska matchup this season will have a bearing on the Big Ten race.
But Wednesday night's 70-58 victory meant everything to the struggling Cornhuskers, who had lost their first four Big Ten games and been embarrassed in three of them.
"It's kind of tough to lose four straight and stay as confident as you would like," Nebraska guard Bo Spencer said. "I think we've got a lot of confidence. If any of it was gone, we got it back tonight."
Spencer scored 19 points to lead four Nebraska players in double figures as the Huskers spoiled a splendid performance by Tim Frazier. The Penn State guard scored a career-high 30 points for his conference-leading eighth 20-point game.
Toney McCray added 13 points and Caleb Walker and Dylan Talley scored 12 apiece for the Huskers (9-7, 1-4).
Nebraska, in its first season in the Big Ten after moving from the Big 12, avoided its second 0-5 conference start in three years.
"There was a lot of pressure on the kids to get that one out of the way, and it was hard," coach Doc Sadler said.
Penn State (9-1, 1-4), picked to finish last in the Big Ten, came into the game off an 88-82 loss to No. 12 Indiana that wasn't decided until the final minute and a 20-point win over Purdue.
Those impressive performances were a distant memory for a PSU team that shot 33 percent from the floor and couldn't overcome a miserable start.
Nebraska took control early and went to the locker room up 34-22 after putting together 10-0 and 8-0 runs and holding Penn State to two field goals the last 8:41 of the first half.
"First 20 minutes on the road, you have to be able to compete and you can't be too far behind at halftime," Nittany Lions coach Patrick Chambers said. "That's a mountain to climb. The kids played hard the second 20 minutes. I've got to give Nebraska credit. They jumped on us. This was a big game for them. They wanted to get their first win in the Big Ten, and they got it done."
The Huskers went 7½ minutes with just one field goal in the second half before Spencer drove the baseline for a 53-40 lead. They put the game away on Spencer's and McCray's back-to-back 3-pointers for a 62-44 lead.
Center Jorge Brian Diaz and guard Dylan Talley continued to work their way back into Nebraska's rotation after missing significant time because of injuries. Each played more than 20 minutes in Saturday's loss at Illinois.
Against Penn State, Diaz (sore feet) had four points and three blocked shots in 27 minutes and Talley (thigh bruise) scored in double figures for the sixth time in his 11 games.
"It's a big difference," Spencer said. "Diaz, he's a big force on the inside. Dylan is instant offense off the bench. It's great to have everyone healthy and have everyone on the same page."
With the exception of the versatile Frazier, the Nittany Lions were badly outplayed early. They made only 7 of their first 24 shots and were outrebounded 19-9 in the first half. They outrebounded the Huskers 24-12 in the second half to hold a 34-31 advantage on the boards.
Frazier made 10 of 16 shots — accounting for half his team's field goals — and all nine of his free throws. Take away Frazier, and the Nittany Lions shot just 23 percent (10 of 44).
Both teams struggled from the perimeter. Penn State missed 14 of its first 15 3-pointers and Nebraska was off target with 9 of its first 11 before making three in a row to go up 45-29 early in the second half.
Penn State finished a season-worst 3 of 24 from long range.
"We can't make shots on the road," Chambers said. "That's a credit to Nebraska. They played great defense. I don't want to take anything away from them. Doc had a great game plan. The game becomes very difficult if you can't make shots."
Nebraska and Penn State meet again Feb. 11 in State College, Pa.