December 12, 2015

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) Shots weren't falling for Shep Garner, but words of encouragement and challenges from his teammates kept flying his way.

As Penn State slid deeper into a hole against a team that hadn't beaten a Power 5 team in eight years, Brandon Taylor grabbed Garner in the huddle and told him simply to do something. Garner complied.

He scored his first points in Penn State's 54-50 win over Louisiana-Monroe with 8:48 to play, then put the Nittany Lions ahead for good with a layup and ensuing free throw as part of a 23-13 run the Nittany Lions (7-3) used to close out the game.

''Shep didn't have one of his better games but he's starting to understand,'' Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said. '' `It's not my day. I'm not making shots. Let me go get a stop. Let me be a great teammate and make sure we're connected out here.' "

Garner finished with eight points while Taylor scored 16. Two came on a second-chance layup with 11:10 to play that kick-started the comeback run after Penn State's 25-24 halftime advantage disappeared quickly.

Travis Munnings led Louisiana-Monroe (4-4) with 22 points and 10 rebounds. Jamaal Samuel added 11 for the Warhawks, who led by six with 16:13 to play despite missing top scorer Majok Deng, who missed his second straight game with a lower leg injury.

Taylor made two free throws and Donovan Jack added another in the final minute to seal the win. Payton Banks added 10 points for Penn State in its second win in Rec Hall in three days.

But it was Garner's feisty play down the stretch that turned the tide. Before he gave his team the lead, Garner backtracked on defense and swiped the ball from Munnings under the Warhawks' basket. Garner took it the other way and nailed a layup that compounded the momentum Taylor provided with his putback just moments before.

It also roused a crowd of 4,824 that had little to cheer for as the teams traded baskets after long stretches of ineffective shooting in the first half.

''I just needed him to do something and he came through for all of us,'' Taylor said. ''Those two big time moves and he got it done.''

Jordan Dickerson had seven blocks for Penn State, who outscored the Warhawks 30-20 in the paint and 16-4 in points off of turnovers.

Louisiana-Monroe coach Keith Richard declined to comment after the game.

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TIP-INS

Louisiana-Monroe: The Warhawks didn't get much help from their reserves when they actually did get in the game. Louisiana-Monroe scored just two bench points while its starters combined to play 170 minutes.

Penn State: The Nittany Lions led for just 4:44 before Garner's points that gave the Nittany Lions the lead for good.

DEFENSE LOOKING UP

Garner's steal that led to his coast-to-coast layup was one of a handful of defensive highlights for Chambers, who believes his team has committed to playing defense first.

''I need to see guys in stances more,'' Chambers said. ''We need to be loaded a little bit better. We just take a few possessions off. We're exactly where we're supposed to be Dec. 12.''

Penn State pulled down 47 rebounds with 29 of them coming in their defensive end while Dickerson's blocks kept the Warhawks in check in the paint. Meanwhile, Penn State made a big improvement from its last game in turnovers, giving the ball away just eight times compared with 21 times against Canisius on Thursday.

BREAK NEEDED

Chambers lamented his decision to schedule four games in eight days just before Penn State's winter break, especially considering the academic course work his players have looming. The Nittany Lions will resume practice on Wednesday and will play Drexel (1-6) at the Palestra in Philadelphia on Dec. 19.

''These next three days are critical for these guys to really get away, get out of the gym and get some rest and be a college kid for a couple of days,'' Chambers said. ''Same for me. I'm going to get out of the gym for a couple of days.''

UP NEXT

Louisiana-Monroe visits No. 14 West Virginia on Sunday.

Penn State visits Drexel on Saturday.

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