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Penn State Hoops Falls To No. 12 Texas A&M 89-77 In First Round Of ESPN Events Invitational

Penn State men’s basketball (4-1) was defeated by No. 12 Texas A&M (5-0) 89-77 Thursday in the first game of the 2023 ESPN Events Invitational. It was the first loss of the season for the Nittany Lions and the first loss for Penn State in the Mike Rhoades era. Kanye Clary led the way in scoring once again, recording 19 points, while Puff Johnson had the hot hand as well, scoring a season-high 15 points and grabbing four rebounds in the loss.

Right from the start, it was a gritty contest between both teams who fought for the entirety of the 40 minutes of action. Penn State got it down to as close as a three-point game with under seven minutes to go in the second half, however, the Nittany Lions could not stop the two-headed attack of Wade Taylor IV and Henry Coleman III, who combined for 47 points.

How It Happened

The Nittany Lions won the tip, however, their first possession was an unsuccessful one after a missed three from Zach Hicks. The Aggies went right down the floor and Hayden Hefner found Tyrece Radford for the first basket of the game. After another missed three this time by Ace Baldwin Jr., the Aggies grabbed another basket on a hook shot from Wildens Leveque to get out to a 4-0. After two missed threes by Hicks, his third shot finally fell for the Nittany Lions.

On the first possession out of the media timeout, Baldwin drove to the lane and scored his first bucket on the game to make it 7-4 Penn State. After a pair of free throws from Texas A&M, Johnson made his presence known, drilling a floater for his first bucket of the afternoon. The Aggies tied the game two possessions later after consecutive layups from Radford, however, that score was short-lived thanks to a three from D’Marco Dunn.

Qudas Wahab added to that lead with an and-one layup but missed the free throw out of the timeout. After that missed free throw, Texas A&M went on a run and retook the lead. Eli Lawrence drilled a wide-open three to make it a one-point game and took the lead after a driving layup from Manny Obaseki. Wahab scored another layup to go back ahead, before being answered with layups from Wade Taylor IV and Obaseki again.

Down three points, Texas A&M’s Soloman Washington was called for a flagrant one after throwing Johnson to the floor. Johnson hit both free throws on the foul and followed it up with a driving layup and took the lead for Penn State.

After free throws by the Aggies, Johnson’s hot hand continued drilling his first three of the game. After over a five-minute delay due to the game clock not working, Texas A&M went on a big 13-2 run. Four consecutive layups, two of which came from Coleman, made it 32-24 Aggies before Rayquawndis Mitchell’s free throws finally ended the Nittany Lion’s scoreless streak.

Texas A&M’s Jace Carter followed up the free throws with a long three-pointer before Clary finally made his first shot of the game on a driving layup. Down six with just over two minutes to play in the half, the Aggies continued to grow their lead after Radford made another shot to go up 10 points. However, Johnson didn’t hear no bell and continued his outstanding offensive game getting an and-one layup and free throw to make it 39-32 heading into the half.

In the second half, Penn State struck first after a steal by Wahab turned into a made layup. The Aggies answered once again, this time from Taylor, who made a driving layup and followed that up with a long three. The shots just kept falling for Texas A&M as Hefner drilled his first three of the game to make it an 11-point lead for the Aggies.

Wahab started the comeback for Penn State getting an and-one layup and free throw to cut the deficit back down to single-digits. Hefner and Clary traded layups on back-to-back possessions before Nick Kern Jr. decided enough with the layups and instead threw down a nasty slam on top of Anders Garcia.

Now down six points, Baldwin made it a one-possession game with a long three-pointer. Washington got a dunk of his own to get the lead back to five for Texas A&M before Johnson answered once again with a pull-up jumper heading into a timeout.

Out of the break, the Aggies went from being up three to up eight after back-to-back layups from Radford and Coleman, however, Kern kept them in with a hook shot humper. Taylor threw up a prayer and-one layup and free throw to get it back to a nine-point Texas A&M lead.

The Nittany Lions didn’t quit and drilled three consecutive shots in a row to get it back down to a three-point game. Coleman executed another and-one layup and free throw for Texas A&M, however, Baldwin drilled another long three to get it back down to a three-point game.

The Aggies continued to score with Penn State having no answer for Coleman and Taylor, however, the Nittany Lions remained in the game thanks to Clary. Clary kept pace with the Aggies scoring seven consecutive points for the Nittany Lions to keep them within 5.

Down 75-70 with just over four minutes to go, the Aggies’ offense could not be stopped with Taylor drilling another three, and Coleman following that up with a layup off a Baldwin turnover. Down 10, Penn State needed a comeback and got a layup from Clary once again and another big three from Baldwin to cut the deficit back down to eight.

With a minute and a half to go, the Aggies drilled two free throws to go back up 10 points. After a missed three from Hicks, that was all she wrote for the Nittany Lions, with Texas A&M holding on for the 89-77 win.


  • Puff Johnson, you are a Nittany Lion. After making his debut during the St. Francis game, Johnson had yet to show his full ability in a game this season, and there’s still probably more for him to give. In 30 minutes of action, Johnson scored a season-high 15 points and grabbed four rebounds.
  • The leading scorer for the Nittany Lions was once again Clary. After only scoring four points in the first half, Clary exploded for 15 in the second half of play and was a big reason the Nittany Lions were able to stay in the game for as long as they did.
  • The defense could not stop the two-headed monster of Taylor and Coleman, who combined for 47 of the Aggies’ 89. Points in the paint were the killer for the Nittany Lions who allowed Texas A&M to score 56 total points in the paint.

What’s Next?

The Nittany Lions will take on the loser of the Butler versus No. 19 FAU in the next round of the tournament. That game is set to tip off at 1:39 p.m. on Friday, November 24, and can be watched on ESPN2 or ESPN+.

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About the Author

Matt Brown

Matt is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism and minoring in sports studies from Bensalem, Pa. Matt is a huge Philadelphia sports fan and an overall sports fan in general. When not watching sports, you'll find him watching reruns of Community or The Office. To reach him, follow him on Twitter and Instagram: @matt_brown63, or email him at [email protected].

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