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Penn State Hoops Squeaks By Yale 58-56 Thanks To Second Half Comeback

Penn State men’s basketball (5-0) nearly dropped one at home against Yale (3-3) Saturday afternoon, as the Nittany Lions just snuck by the Bulldogs 58-56.

Poor shooting from the Nittany Lions and excellent defense from the Bulldogs put the Ivy Leaguers up by double-digits for most of the game, but a true last-minute comeback prevented an early season derailment for Penn State.

How It Happened

Yale got off to a strong start, as it went up 7-0 while keeping the Nittany Lions without a bucket for the first five minutes of play. Lamar Stevens was the one who broke the shutout. The junior scored four points in quick succession off a dunk and a jump shot. Mike Watkins, Izaiah Brockington, and Myreon Jones followed up with some scoring, but the Bulldogs looked primed from the get-go.

While most other parts of the box score looked even, Penn State looked dreadful shooting from the floor. A strong Bulldog defense wasn’t helping as miss after miss came for the Nittany Lions. Yale went on another run later in the first half, as the Bulldogs went 6-0 while Penn State went 2-11 and scoreless for more than three minutes.

That run would keep on going for another three minutes, with Yale building up a commanding 25-13 lead with 4:00 to go in the first half. A Myles Dread three-pointer finally broke the drought, Penn State’s first of the day after going 0-11 on the deep ball.

That trey seemed to breath some life back into the floundering Nittany Lions as the team hungrily attacked the basket again and again. Stevens and John Harrar were maniacs on the boards, combining for 11 of Penn State’s 22 rebounds with Harrar dominating especially on the offensive glass.

But while the rebounds were coming and chances being made, the scoring was not. Penn State was shooting 28% from the field thanks to a frustrating Yale defense. Penn State’s defense wasn’t awful either, with Myreon Jones and Jamari Wheeler each swiping two steals, but the offense just looked outclassed. Yale was able to push its lead to double digits as the Bulldogs went into halftime the owners of a 31-21 lead.

Penn State still looked dazed coming into the second half — missing their first five shots before Brockington buried a jumper to end the drought. The Bulldogs kept up their pressure, making it impossible for Penn State to score. The transfer continued to put the team on his back, getting another shot to fall and converted a free throw to break the double-digit lead.

Not a single Nittany Lion was in double-digit scoring range with ten minutes to go in the second half. The team was now 13-50 from the floor, a nauseating 26%, while going 3-23 from three. Azar Swain and Paul Atkinson were the main force behind the Bulldog’s lead, combining for 30 of Yale’s 48 points at that point.

Izaiah Brockington finally broke the ten-point barrier and Myles Dread soon after, but with Jones and Stevens going 3-12 and 2-12 respectively, things weren’t looking up for Penn State in the slightest. Yale continued to keep their lead despite Penn State trying like mad to make any sort of run.

Penn State was able to bring the game closer as Stevens finally got going. He brought the Nittany Lions to within six with 2:32 to play in the game and made some huge plays on the defensive end.

Behind some suddenly hot shooting, Penn State roared to life with another bucket from Stevens and a three pointer from Curtis Jones Jr. making it a 56-55 game. The other Jones continued his mini-redemption arc, with a huge shot from deep giving his team a 58-56 lead with 51 seconds to play.

A tense few seconds made the BJC hold its breath. A key steal from Brockington gave his team possession, but a Stevens miss after a long timeout gave Yale a chance. But a block from Stevens and a miss from three on Yale’s next two possessions were enough to seal the deal, as Penn State squeaked by 58-56.

Takeaways

  • After some impressive shooting performances to start the season, especially from three, Penn State looked like a JV team warming up before a game. Going 23-69 from the floor looks bad, but 5-27 from three looks even worse.
  • Penn State has apparently never heard of the term “too little, too late.” After looking lost in the wilderness on offense for most of the game, a 16-2 run during the last five minutes made the team’s poor play during the rest of the game look like a YouTube prank.
  • It took awhile for him to get going, but when he finally found his rhythm, Lamar Stevens refused to let his team lose. During that crazy 16-2 run, he had eight points, two clutch blocks, and four rebounds. He 13 rebounds in total were a career high.
  • While the rest of the team couldn’t hit the side of a barn, Izaiah Brockington and Myles Dread kept things within reach. They combined for 28 points as the Stevens and Myreon Jones struggled and Mike Watkins sat out most of the game.

What’s Next

The Nittany Lions will have a busy Thanksgiving week as they travel to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn for the NIT Season Tipoff. Their first game will be against Ole Miss at 5 p.m. on November 27. Catch it live on ESPN 2.

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About the Author

Matt Paolizzi

Since graduating from Penn State in 2021, Matt is (hopefully) manning a successful job and (hopefully) living a happy life by now. In a past life, he was a writer for Onward State and remains a proud alumnus of the best student publication in the country. Check out Podward State too, Onward State's official podcast, that he co-founded alongside Matt Ogden and Mitch Stewart in 2019. It's his baby, give it a wave and make sure it's doing okay. Thanks to da king Sam Brungo and everyone who follows, it most definitely is.

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