Garner leads Penn State over Nebraska 56-55
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) Shep Garner watched a big lead evaporate, listened as fans inside his team's arena grew quiet and his coach hollered disapprovingly across the court after an unnecessary deep 3-pointer attempt to close the first half.
Penn State's scrappy guard endured, never losing his confidence in Penn State's 56-55 win over Nebraska on Thursday. Much like Chambers has never lost his confidence in this team despite long strings of losing over his five-year tenure.
Garner scored 22 points, made five 3-pointers and hit a go-ahead free throw after a desperation drive to the hoop in the final seconds to put Penn State ahead for good. All this after the Nittany Lions (15-13, 6-9 Big Ten) let an 18-point lead slip away and needed Garner's late-game heroics to lift them to their third-straight win that tied for their most conference wins under coach Patrick Chambers.
''I just wanted to be aggressive, try to make a play, try to get a foul,'' Garner said. ''Try to make something out of what the defense gave me.''
Shavon Shields scored 25 points for the Cornhuskers (14-15, 6-10) who lost their third straight and seventh in their last nine. Shields missed a jumper at the buzzer to seal Penn State's win.
Brandon Taylor added 19 points and five 3-pointers for the Nittany Lions who led 28-20 at halftime and 44-26 with 13:40 left. But Garner, Taylor and the rest of the Nittany Lions were as cold in the final minutes as they were hot earlier in the game.
Penn State made just one basket over the final 6:55. Garner and Taylor combined to shoot 1-for-7 in that span.
''We're going to go on our runs and they're going to go on their runs,'' Taylor said. ''All that matters is what team gets it done at the end of the game.''
Having won two of its last four against Top 25 teams, Penn State is getting it done at the end of the season. Chambers predicted big things if the Nittany Lions could stick to defense and fundamentals. For much of Thursday night, the Nittany Lions did just that.
''I'm really proud of my team for hanging tough,'' Chambers said. ''It is a win and we're going to enjoy it.''
Taylor powered Penn State's offense with three 3-pointers early and Garner helped the Nittany Lions take over with seven unanswered points to close out the first half.
Meanwhile, Nebraska had few answers outside of Shields - who scored 14 of his points in the first half - for Penn State's tight defense. The Cornhuskers turned the ball over six times, went nearly seven minutes without a basket midway through the first and closed out the first 20 minutes on a 4-for-13 skid.
Shields, who returned after missing Nebraska's game against Ohio State on Feb. 20 with an injury, brought his team within striking distance. He scored nine of his points during a 21-11 run that that cut Penn State's lead to 55-49 with 3:55 left.
After Taylor missed an alley-oop try with 1:06 left, Tai Webster brought Nebraska within two when he drew a foul on his way to the basket and sank one of two free throws. Penn State missed its next three shots and Michael Jacobson was fouled under the basket and made two from the foul line to tie the game 55-55 with 50 seconds left.
''I don't know if I'd rewatch this game,'' Nebraska coach Tim Miles said. ''It could be fatal because I liked the way we ended the game.''
Chambers knows his team won't have similar success very often with little secondary scoring help.
Outside of Taylor and Garner, who scored all but 15 of the Nittany Lions' points, Penn State got little help from starters Josh Reaves and Jordan Dickerson offensively. Each picked up an assist but combined to shoot 0-for-2. Peyton Banks, Donovon Jack and Isaiah Washington each picked up five points.
''We have to keep working on other guys stepping up and making play,'' Chambers said. ''We're a much better team when we have three and four guys in double figures.''
Nebraska: The Cornhuskers dominated at times down low late. They finished with 24 points in the paint to Penn State's 12 and scored 15 second-chance points to Penn State's eight.
Penn State: Taylor and Garner combined for 23 of Penn State's 28 first-half points. Meanwhile, four other Nittany Lions shot a combined 2-for-12 over the first 20 minutes.
Nebraska visits Purdue on Tuesday.
Penn State visits Michigan State on Sunday.