Heading into an eight-day break on the game schedule, the Nittany Lions sleepwalked into their matchup with Rider (7-5), losing 71-70 on Thursday night. Penn State fell to 10-4 on the season.
How It Happened
The Nittany Lions started off well, with Mike Watkins finishing off a Lamar Stevens lob with a vicious dunk to give Penn State a 12-5 advantage early on. However, Watkins picked up his second foul before the first media timeout, forcing him to head to the bench for the rest of the half. Meanwhile, Rider reeled off a 10-0 run to take a 15-12 lead. Three consecutive Shep Garner three-pointers sent the Blue and White on a 9-0 run of their own. The teams went back and forth for the rest of the half, with Penn State taking a 35-31 lead into the locker room.
The second half saw Penn State slowly increase its lead over the Broncs. Another rim-crushing alley-oop finish from Watkins extended the Nittany Lions’ lead to 53-44 at the under-12 media timeout. Just as they seemed to be pulling away, Rider put together a 13-3 run to take its first lead of the half. A Lamar Stevens layup followed by Garner’s fifth three of the night put Penn State back in front.
Things started to unravel for the home team late in the game, as the lead for the Nittany Lions vanished with 1:19 left to play following a pair of Rider free throws. A clutch bucket by Stevens put Penn State back up 67-66 with just over a minute to go. Garner seemingly put the game on ice with 22 ticks left by draining a long ball from the corner, giving the senior six made three-pointers on the night.
Rider scored a quick bucket to cut the lead back to 70-68, before sending Stevens to the line with eight seconds left. Stevens missed both freebies, and Frederick Scott came down the court to hit an unbelievable three-pointer at the horn to steal the win for the Broncs.
Rider only held the lead for 2:41 out of 40 minutes.
The Nittany Lions shot 39 percent from beyond the arc on the night, compared to Rider’s 31 percent three-point clip. Shep Garner lead Penn State with 18 points, while Josh Reaves added a double-double. Eight different players recorded four or more points for the Blue and White, and all five starters finished in double figures.
Penn State’s defensive play was pretty solid for most of the night. The Nittany Lions recorded 12 blocks, while holding the Broncs’ leading scorer, Jordan Allen, to a 3-for-15 shooting performance in the game.
Player Of The Game
Josh Reaves | Sophomore | Guard
After a sluggish start shooting the ball, Reaves assumed his role of being the jack of all trades for Penn State. Nearly finishing with a triple-double, the sophomore ended up with 10 points, 13 rebounds, and eight assists to go along with his five steals.
Following an eight-day break, Penn State will take on Coppin State at the Bryce Jordan Center on Dec. 30 at 1 p.m. on BTN Plus.