Penn State (10-4) lost a heart-breaker at the buzzer heading into an eight-day break between games. With just one non-conference game to play before the full conference slate begins on January 2, this was not what the team needed.
The Lions came out of the gate ready to play, grabbing an early 12-5 lead five minutes into the game. Mike Watkins was called for two quick fouls and was forced to the bench just four minutes in.
Rider came storming back with an 10-0 run to take a 15-12 lead minutes later. Shep Garner hit a three-pointer from near half-court and another fading away on the next trip in the midst of a PSU run that got the game back to 21-15 in their favor. Garner started 4-4 from behind the arc through ten minutes of play.
The Broncos didn’t want to go away, fighting back to a 22-21 lead as Penn State struggled to find the necessary intensity to compete against the lessor-talented opponent. That focus finally came in the form of a 7-0 run, sparked by some great defense, and the score was 31-24 when Tony Carr hit an open three with 4:30 to play in the half.
It appeared as though the Lions found their groove and would take control of the game but Rider continued to fight, and the score was 35-31 at the break. Mike Watkins played just four minutes in the half after picking up the two quick fouls.
Just before the half Nazeer Bostick made a nice block. After the play Bostick was called for a technical foul, as was Jordan Allen of Rider, for some trash talk that followed.
Mike Watkins had five rebounds in the first two minutes of the second half, along with a block, to make his presence known after being a non-factor in the first half. Three Rider starters had three fouls and were forced to the bench early in the second half. With five minutes off the clock in the final frame, a fourth Bronco was called for his third foul. Penn State opened up a 45-37 lead at the first break.
Josh Reaves played a tremendous game. He found Mike Watkins several times with passes that led to dunks. Here’s one which Reaves drew the entire defense before finding the big man in the paint.
While it looked as though the Lions were ready to pull away in the second half, two consecutive made three pointers by Rider made it 56-55 with nine minutes to play. A dunk on the next possession gave the Broncos a brief 57-56 lead. PSU answered with five quick points to regain control.
Rider continued to battle. An offensive rebound and put-back got the game back to just a 65-64 lead for the Lions. While Penn State appeared to have the advantage for most of the night the game was nearly even on the scoreboard. With 1:23 Rider took a 66-65 lead.
Lamar Stevens banked a runner in the lane off the backboard and in to give PSU a 67-66 lead on the next possession. Two trips down the court later, Shep Garner hit a three for a 70-66 lead with 22 seconds to play. Lamar Stevens missed two free throws to give Rider a chance, down 2, with 8 seconds to play. Frederick Scott hit a deep three with time running out for the win.
Player of the Game
Josh Reaves (10 points, 13 rebounds, 8 assists, 5 steals, one block) They say that defense doesn’t slump. Today the team’s effort was inconsistent but one continuous factor was Reaves’ defense and overall intensity. Reaves had two consecutive offensive rebounds and put-backs in the second half. It’s those types of plays, ones created with his own effort, that allowed him to fill out the stat sheet today.
- This game was a classic example of a let-down game at tip-off. With a long break looming after the game, the holidays, and being favored heavily at home, it was important for the team to focus early. Unfortunately the Lions lost their momentum a few minutes into the game, slacking a little bit in transition defense, allowing some easy buckets. The team came out with a much better effort in the second half, but at the end of the game it squandered a chance to get to the line in the double-bonus to put the game away. Two Lamar Stevens free throws at the end of the game could have iced it, instead, with two misses, it set up the devastating finish.
- Pat Chambers elected not to use the press today.
The team has the longest break of the season, eight days, before it will host Coppin State on Saturday, December 30. The game was moved to 1 p.m. due to the Fiesta Bowl kicking off later in the day at 4 p.m.