Late Dunk Pushes Nittany Lions Through to Big Ten Semifinals
NEW YORK – Sitting in the media room after last night’s victory over Northwestern, facing the reality of a third matchup against the Ohio State Buckeyes, Penn State senior guard Shep Garner said, “This is a brand new season for everyone.”
Despite this game being part of a “new season,” the result was similar Friday night at Madison Square Garden as Penn State used a late-game steal and dunk to seal a 69-68 victory over Ohio State and a birth in tomorrow’s Big Ten Tournament semifinals.
The No. 7 seed Nittany Lions (21-12, 9-9), who had already bested the No. 2 seed Buckeyes (24-8, 15-3) twice in the regular season, relied on their first-team all-Big Ten performer Tony Carr to carry the load all night.
Carr finished with 25 points, six rebounds and five assists. It’s the third straight game dating back to the regular season finale that the Big Ten’s leading scorer has had 25 or more points.
Carr was a key player on Penn State’s final possession as, after a Garner steal, Carr found an open Josh Reaves under the basket to give Penn State a one-point advantage with 3.1 seconds remaining. They would not relinquish that lead.
“I just wanted to be patient,” Carr said of the last offensive sequence. “We had a lot of time on the clock and I didn’t want to rush up a shot. When I went up and they tried to double-team, Josh went up and made a great cut and luckily I found him.”
The Nittany Lions, despite not having star center Mike Watkins, outrebounded the Buckeyes, 39-33, as well as nabbing 14 offensive rebounds to Ohio State’s 11. Penn State won the battle in second chance points as well, outscoring the Buckeyes 18-11.
“The amount of offensive rebounds we gave up in the first half, that really came down to why the game went that way,” Ohio State forward Jae’Sean Tate said.
Tate, who spent much of the second half on the bench in foul trouble, scored only 10 points on the night. Big Ten Player of the Year Keita Bates-Diop put up 25 points for the Buckeyes, but it was the the defense from Reaves, Julian Moore and Garner on the Ohio State star that proved costly for the No. 2 seed.
“They’ve been in [those situations] before. They’ve been in these types of games and battles,” Chambers said on his team’s defensive effort. “Shep yesterday with the charge and Julian had the block and a couple rebounds yesterday. And today he did the same thing. That’s what seniors are supposed to do.”
With the win, Penn State advances on to the semifinals for the first time since 2011, when they advanced all the way to the championship game before bowing out to Ohio State. It is the first time under Chambers that the Nittany Lions will be playing on Saturday at the Big Ten Tournament.
The Nittany Lions will face the winner of the game between No. 14 Rutgers and No. 3 Purdue tomorrow at approximately 4:30 p.m. The game will start 25 minutes after the conclusion of the other semifinal, an in-state affair between the top-seeded Michigan State Spartans and the No. 5 seed Michigan Wolverines.
CommRadio will have all of the coverage of Penn State’s game tomorrow at psucommradio.com and on our mobile app as the Nittany Lions seek to move one step closer to an NCAA tournament berth.
Tom Shively is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.