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Penn State 75, Mississippi State 60: Lions Advance to NIT Championship Via 3-Point Shooting Barrage

Shep Garner’s six 3-pointers put him atop the school record books and put PSU into the NIT Finals.

NCAA Basketball: NIT-Penn State vs Mississippi State Nicole Sweet-USA TODAY Sports

While we all would have preferred to see what kind of damage this Penn State team could be capable of in the NCAA Tournament, one of the hidden perks of playing in the NIT is that if the Nittany Lions make it far enough, they are rewarded with playing a virtual home game or two at Madison Square Garden, thanks to a large alumni base in the New York/New Jersey area. Standing in the way between them and a date in the NIT championship game was Mississippi State, a team much like PSU, had upset a No. 1 seed on the road in the NIT (the Bulldogs beat Louisville last Wednesday), and was also using this tournament as a springboard to vault into the Big Dance in 2019.

The game opened with six different Lions scoring in the first quarter alone, led by a pair of three-pointers from Shep Garner (with Mrs. Garner of course cheering her son on) to give PSU an 18-11 lead after the first quarter. PSU would pick up where they left off in the second quarter, with Lamar Stevens, Tony Carr, and Josh Reaves nailing back-to-back-to-back triples (Tom Emanski-style) and Shep nailing a couple more treys himself en route to an 19-0 run to open up a 37-11 lead before Mississippi State ended a 7-minute scoring drought with a bucket. When the first half was all said and done, PSU had nailed an astonishing 8 of their 13 3-point attempts and sported a commanding 42-23 lead.

The second half saw Penn State pick up where they left off, including Shep breaking Pete Lisicky’s school record for career 3-pointers (332) in dramatic fashion, on a scramble for a loose ball that saw a couple crisp passes land into the hands of a wide-open Shep on the perimeter, who calmly nailed the trey that vaulted him into the top of the record books (Shep would add another triple for good measure). Carr would continue his hot shooting from downtown as well. When it was all said and done, PSU would finish the game with an astonishing 11-for-18 3-point shooting performance. Try as they did with a full-court press, the Bulldogs were never able to get closer than within 15 points of PSU in the second half (thanks to a pair of garbage-time buckets in the final minute), as the Nittany Lions ultimately cruised to victory and a spot in the Finals this Thursday against Utah, who had defeated Western Kentucky in the first game of the evening at MSG.

And with that, Penn State’s road to the NIT championship comes to an end one way or another this Thursday. Here’s to seeing the ending where everyone on the Penn State squad is cutting down the nets on the MSG floor.

PPP And Four Factors

Team Total Possessions PPP eFG% OReb% TO% FT Rate
Team Total Possessions PPP eFG% OReb% TO% FT Rate
Penn State 63 1.19 59.5% 28.1% 12.7% 17.2%
Mississippi State 0.95 41.7% 31.4% 17.5% 38.9%

Penn State shot precisely 50% from the floor, while the Bulldogs shot a hair under 39%. Such a discrepancy in shooting negated any advantage MSU could have gained from making more overall trips to the free throw line (21 to PSU’s 10).

Players Of The Game

Random Observations

  • I hope the players saved some of that three-point shooting for the championship game
  • According to an in-game interview with Shep Garner’s mom, Flavor Flav will be in the house Thursday night.
  • Really, what more is there to say? This was a Mississippi State team that thoroughly manhandled Louisville on the road and looked like your classic Ben Howland-coached teams that play a smothering defense and make life a living hell for you, offensively. Instead, the Lions torched them in one of their best shooting performances of the season. I guess you can say, I wasn’t quite expecting it to be this easy.

Up Next

Penn State faces off against Utah Thursday night for all the NIT marbles. Tip-off is at 7:00 PM ET on ESPN.