Men’s Basketball Gains Third Straight Win in Back in Black (and Pink) Game
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Coming off a 74-68 victory of George Washington, the Nittany Lions hosted Georgia Tech on Tuesday night in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge and were able to gain their third straight victory. Penn State was in sync on the offensive and defensive ends when it mattered and walked away with a 67-60 victory.
In a significantly low scoring first half, Penn State struggled to find a rhythm on the offensive end. Shooting just 40 percent from the field, Georgia Tech senior Quinton Stephens managed to grab seven rebounds and go 3-6 from three. Stephens had 13 points in the first half.
“He’s [Stephens] been terrific these past few games,” Georgia Tech head coach Josh Pastner said. “He continues to get double-doubles, but we missed a lot of short shots and we are the most inexperienced team in college basketball.”
Georgia Tech opened up with a 2-3 defense, forcing Penn State to settle for the outside shot. Junior Shep Garner found early success with the three ball, but unforced turnovers from Payton Banks and Josh Reaves allowed the Yellow Jackets to take an early lead.
The Nittany Lions had 4 unforced turnovers over a 5:26 period, and seven all together in the first half.
Redshirt freshman Mike Watkins proved to be a threat in the front court early, going 2-3 down low. The 2-3 defense from Georgia Tech opened up opportunities to post up in the paint and Watkins put up 12 points and 12 rebounds on the night.
“You can see he [Watkins] is coming along. We are getting some consistency from him,” head coach Pat Chambers said. “Our bigs did a really good job, but if we can get him consistent, he’s going to be ready for Big Ten play.”
With 7:19 left to play in the first half, a spark came from freshman Lamar Stevens. A quick slam in the paint gave the Nittany Lions momentum to force a turnover and push the ball up the floor. Stevens added a layup to take the lead 18-17.
Stevens is currently third in scoring, making an early impact on the Nittany Lions in his Penn State Career.
Penn State kept the momentum down the stretch, with scoring coming from multiple players all over the floor allowing them to go into the half leading 30-28.
Second half play opened up with a steal and bucket from Stevens. Watkins also added a steal which lead to three-pointer from Garner, giving the Nittany Lions a 35-31 lead. A quick layup from Watkins extended the lead to 37-31.
Reaves made a steal and slammed it home in transition, extending the lead to 39-33, but rebounding off the offensive glass for the Yellow Jackets allowed them to stay within range.
With 8:44 left to play and the Nittany Lions leading 44-42, Moore laid it in off an assist from Banks. A deep three attempt from Garner led to offensive rebound from Reaves. Reaves laid it in for two, extending the lead to 48-44.
With 6:18 left to play, a foul from Garner put Penn State into the bonus, but that did not slow down the offensive intensity down the stretch. A dunk from Stevens followed by a steal from Garner gave coach Patrick Chambers’ team a 56-53 lead.
“We focus on the defensive end and that’s always our mentality” Garner said.
Composure on the offensive end allowed the Penn State to pull ahead. With Georgia Tech in the bonus, players like Garner and Reaves were able to knock down critical free throws. The Nittany Lions were 73% from the line on the night.
Penn State has won seven of their last 10 ACC/Big Ten Challenge games.
Penn State is set to play Wright State Saturday at the Bryce Jordan Center. Tip off is scheduled for 5 PM.
Tia Pattillo is a junior majoring in psychology neuroscience. To contact her, email email@example.com