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Old 03-15-2018, 11:06 AM
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Default Penn State 63 Temple 57 (NIT)
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Seven years ago during this very week in March, Fran Dunphy's Temple Owls used some last-second heroics in the first round of the 2011 NCAA Tournament to end Penn State's postseason run.

Penn State fans remember it all too well. But these were two completely different teams than the ones that laced up in 2011. Penn State has a different coaching staff from top to bottom, alongside a totally new roster.

Seven years later, the Nittany Lions weren't focused on the past headed into their 11th NIT first round game. Instead, fourth-seeded Penn State was still ready to climb.

It hardly came easy though, as Penn State's usual winning blueprint, did not pan out like it usually does.

Sophomore guard Tony Carr, sophomore forward Lamar Stevens and senior guard Shep Garner average 45.2 combined points per game. By halftime, Penn State's three active leading scorers were held to a combined zero points.

Battling back from a third quarter deficit as large as 11, the Nittany Lions flipped the script, using a 15-3 run to bury the Owls. The Nittany Lions outscored Temple 19-9 in the fourth quarter, using the final scoring streak across 3:24 to complete the comeback.

"I can't say enough about the guys," Penn State head coach Patrick Chambers said. "We had to overcome a lot and that's what the climb is about. That's what it's all about - just handling adversity. Give Temple a lot of credit. They came in here and tried to punch us in the mouth, that's for sure, and these guys were able to find a way at the end."

Handling adversity - something Penn State has done all season long. Wednesday night was nothing new though as adversity has hit this team in a variety of ways.

Trailing by six with just fewer than four minutes to play, the Nittany Lions relied on their experienced veterans in junior guard Josh Reaves and Garner for a pair of perfectly timed treys. Garner's swished through the net with 2:43 on the clock, tying the game for the first time all night.

"I didn't want it to be my last game," Garner said. "I definitely wanted to come out here and win. It came down to who wanted it more, us or them, so we made the plays down the stretch to win the game."

Rising to the occasion, Reaves had been consistent for the Nittany Lions all night.

A 35 percent shooter from beyond the arc during the year, Reaves knocked down three of his four attempts from deep in the first half and led all scorers at the break with 13 points. He went on to shoot 4-for-6 from the 3-point line, which was lengthened in one of a few experimental rules utilized in this year's NIT.

Reaves finished with a season-high 19 points to lead both teams. The do-it-all guard also pulled in 11 rebounds for his second career double-double.

"They did a really good job just keying in on our main guys, and I was just fortunate enough to get open shots and I made them," Reaves said. "They tried to force me a certain way and our bigs did a really good job of just setting screens and rolling and just being in the right spots. I was just taking as much advantage as I could."

It was Lamar Stevens, who like many of the Nittany Lions, was playing against high school teammates and friends, who gave the Nittany Lions perhaps its biggest boost. Stevens posted a monster block out of a Temple timeout to set up another Garner 3-pointer on the other end. Just like that, Penn State's two-point advantage grew to five and as the wide smile came across Stevens' face when Temple called another timeout, Penn State would not look back.

"I just found spots to get open and my coach called a great play at the end of the game," Garner said. "My teammates set a great screen where the guy just fell and I made a shot. It came down to getting stops because when we can get stops, we can get an easy offensive going. That's what we did down the stretch, we got stops. It was on the defensive end. Our offensive can take care of itself as long as we are defending and rebounding."

Not to be missed in Penn State's comeback effort though was sophomore guard Nazeer Bostick, who brought Penn State within five at halftime and found his way to the free throw line in the final minutes of the game. Bostick went 4-for-4 from the field, finishing second on the team behind Reaves with 12 points.

Penn State will hardly have time to celebrate its NIT victory, with a matchup against No. 1 seed Notre Dame in the second round. Tip time is set for noon in South Bend, Indiana.

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Old 03-15-2018, 11:13 AM
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Old 03-18-2018, 09:32 AM
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