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Penn State 63, Temple 57: Special Moves Spark Nittany Lions’ Comeback

After a horrendous three-and-a-half quarters, Penn State woke up just in time to rally past Temple and move on to the second round of the NIT.

NCAA Basketball: George Washington at Penn State Linsey Fagan-USA TODAY Sports

If you had told me that Tony Carr would have one of the worst shooting performances of his college career, not scoring a single point until the 4th quarter, while Lamar Stevens and Shep Garner would go an entire first half without scoring, and Josh Reaves would be forced to carry the load, I would’ve pictured a 10-20 point Temple win and a humiliating finish to what has been a very up-and-down roller coaster type of season for Penn State basketball. I sure as heck wouldn’t have envisioned a Penn State team struggling for three and a half quarters to put the ball in the net, yet keep themselves within close enough striking distance to swoop in and take the lead in the game’s final few minutes, thanks to some special moves.

Things started out rather sluggish for Penn State, as the team struggled to get anything going on the offensive end, trailing 13-4 with just three minutes left in the first quarter. Just when things seemed to be getting worse, Temple missed a breakaway dunk, which Josh Reaves converted into a three-pointer on the other end. The Lions would go on to cut the lead to 16-12 at the end of the first quarter. The second quarter however, saw the Lions’ cold-shooting ways continue, as Temple went on an 8-0 run to go up by ten points before PSU cut the deficit in half to 29-24. At this juncture, PSU was shooting a paltry 31% from the floor, and Josh Reaves was the only starter to have scored (13 points) with Nazeer Bostick and Julian Moore being the only other players to contribute to the scoring effort.

The second half saw more of the same: Sloppy passing, poor shooting, inability to rebound, allowing Temple to slip for easy backdoor layups. Yet, somehow, despite falling behind by as much as 11 points, the Nittany Lions were able to claw back, thanks to Lamar Stevens pitching in 10 points, as well as Bostick and Moore hitting career highs of 12 and 10 points, apiece.

With the Lions trailing 54-48 with less than four minutes to play and time running out, Reaves and Garner busted out their special moves by draining back-to-back three-pointers to tie the game at 54. A subsequent steal by Reaves, followed by a layup by John Harrar gave PSU the lead for good, as the Lions would complete 14-0 run to ultimately seal the 63-57 win.

PPP and Four Factors

Team Total Possessions PPP eFG% OReb% TO% FT Rate
Team Total Possessions PPP eFG% OReb% TO% FT Rate
Penn State 64 1.13 45.7% 36.8% 14.0% 43.1%
Notre Dame 0.98 41.7% 40.0% 18.6% 28.3%

The major difference-maker here was in free throw shooting. PSU converted 20 of its 30 opportunities at the line, which while not great, was way better than Temple’s abysmal 5 for 14 from the charity stripe. This allowed the game from not completely slipping away from PSU, giving them a fighting chance to steal this game towards the end.

Player of The Game

On a night when his teammates, especially Carr, struggled big-time shooting the ball, it was Josh who stepped up from the beginning, being one of the few reliable scoring sources early on and being very active on the boards, in addition to his usual tenacious play on the defensive end. For that, Mr. Reaves is your Player of the Game.

Random Observations

  • Did anyone else get a bit of deja vu from the previous NIT first round game Penn State played in back in 2009? I’m talking of course, about the game against George Mason where Talor Battle’s last-second heroics sent the game into overtime, and subsequently sparked PSU’s run all the way to an NIT championship. This game of course, did not require such last-second heroics, but it had the same feeling of a game that you felt slipping away at times, yet PSU found a way to come back. Time will tell whether this PSU team pulls a similar type of run, especially without Mike Watkins available, but in the immortal words of one Mr. Jon Rothstein: This. Is. March.
  • No really, Tony Carr was 1-for-12 shooting the ball and finished with just 2 points and Penn State still managed to win a postseason game against a team with a pulse. I’m still amazed from typing that previous sentence.

Up Next

Penn State (22-13, 9-9) travels to South Bend, Indiana to take on top-seeded Notre Dame. Tip-off is this Saturday at Noon ET on ESPN.