By:Marvin Chambers:|4.0 Sports Media
NEW YORK — After being snubbed by the NCAA Tournament the Nittany Lions came in the NIT with a chip on their shoulders. PSU really looked focused and hungry to bring a title into Happy Valley.
After his team’s 75-60 NIT semi-final win over Mississippi State, Penn State coach Pat Chambers was asked a question about competing in the NIT at Madison Square Garden.
Chambers, was asked what would be better, winning in Thursday’s 7 p.m. NIT final against Utah or making the NCAA tournament and then losing in the first round.
“I’ve shared a few stories, talking to Jay Wright and (Michigan coach) John Beilein,” Chambers said. “They have said it, sometimes it’s better winning, continue to win, and get this experience and play in a championship game, because that means we’re winning and there’s success and guys are getting amazing experiences.”
His team has reached the championship game at Madison Square Garden by beating Temple at home and having road wins at Notre Dame and Marquette and before Tuesday’s victory over Mississippi State in New York.
“To be able to play in a championship, Penn State basketball, where we started and now where we are, I think for me right now it’s playing in the NIT and trying to cut down some nets, and put a banner up in the BJC [the Bryce Jordan Center] because that’s going to be a huge stepping stone for us,” Chambers said.
PSU (23-13) darted out Tuesday’s contest with a 24-0 run that began late in the first quarter and extended past the midway portion of the second, received 56 points from Roman Catholic products Lamar Stevens, Shep Garner and Tony Carr.
Shep Garner played all the whole game and scored 18 points, while Tony Carr chipped in a game-high 21 points in the contest.
With six three-point field goals, Garner set the school career record. He now has 334, passing Pete Lisicky, who had 332 from 1994-1998.
“We really came out and got off to a horrible start. We haven’t been down that big at halftime the whole year. Credit Penn State for a lot of it, and you know, I just don’t know if it was anxiety, playing in the Garden, I mean, I don’t know what it was. But that’s not the same team that just beat Louisville at Louisville, the way we played in those first, ten, 12 minutes of the game, and really got behind. Proud of the 25 wins; that they helped this program, putting it back in the right direction.” MSU head coach Ben Howland said.
In the postseason, Ben Howland is 23-12 with a 4-2 NIT record.
MSU turned the ball over 11 times resulting into 17 points for the Nittany Lions. In the second half the men in blue couldn’t miss, shooting 72.7% in the third quarter (8-11) from the floor and 100% (3-3) beyond the arc.
Mississippi State (25-12) Tyson Carter scored 19 points while teammate Abdul Ado had 13 points along with 8 boards.
Penn State will face Utah in the NIT Championship game Thursday night with a 7 p.m. start time.