Garner, Reaves lead the Lions to victory
STATE COLLEGE — Shep Garner’s confident if he’s not making shots, one of his teammates will.
It’s why Penn State’s forward had no qualms — despite having the hot hand himself in the Nittany Lions’ 67-60 win over Georgia Tech on Tuesday — swinging the ball to Josh Reaves, who’s still working off some rust after a preseason leg injury forced him to miss the first five games.
Reaves made good on Garner’s pass with Georgia Tech threatening. He pulled up on his sore left leg and sank his first 3-pointer of the season along with any hopes the Yellow Jackets had for a comeback.
“He picked a huge spot in the game to get his first 3,” Garner said. “We’re proud of him. My teammates put the ultimate confidence in me and I put the ultimate confidence in my teammates.”
Garner didn’t let them down. He scored 17 points and Mike Watkins added 12 and grabbed 12 rebounds to help secure the win in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge game. Penn State (5-3) led for 20:57, including most of the second half, and closed out the game on a 10-5 run keyed by Reaves’ shot.
It was one of just four 3-pointers that landed for the Nittany Lions, who attempted 15.
“We didn’t make shots, but we found a way” Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said. “And that’s a sign of a team that’s maturing, growing up.”
Quinton Stephens led Georgia Tech (4-2) with 13 points and 11 rebounds while Ben Lammers had 12 points and 11 rebounds. Josh Okogie added 13 points for the Yellow Jackets.
The teams spent more than six minutes tied and swapped the lead seven times in the first half before Penn State took control with a 7-0 run.
Okogie gave Georgia Tech its last lead on the first shot of the second half. His 3-pointer put the Yellow Jackets up 31-30 before Penn State jumped back out front. Okogie pulled his squad into a tie with another 3 to make it 39-39 with 13 minutes remaining.
“We’re a team that our margin of error is none, so we have to play nearly perfect,” Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner said. “We had some breakdowns here and there and Penn State capitalized.”
The Nittany Lions entered the game scoring 16 points off turnovers on average in their last three games. They netted 24 off 17 Georgia Tech miscues in this one.
Reaves came up with the biggest two with a steal and dunk to put Penn State up 39-33 early in the second half. It seemed to snap his team and the crowd out of a lull.
Both teams struggled to sink easy baskets for much of the night.
The Nittany Lions made just 26 of 61 field goals while Georgia Tech hit 24 of 66. As both teams struggled from outside, they tried to work midrange shots with intermittent success.
“We missed a lot of short shots, I mean a lot right by the basket there,” Pastner said. “We’re an attack team and we try to live at the free-throw line and we missed a ton, a ton of bunnies as I would say right by the hoop.”
The Nittany Lions continued their recent run of success against the ACC. Penn State won for the seventh time in the last 10 tries in ACC/Big Ten Challenge games.
GEORGIA TECH (4-2)
Stephens 5-11 0-0 13, Lammers 6-12 0-0 12, Heyward 0-0 0-0 0, Jus.Moore 3-5 0-0 6, Okogie 5-21 1-2 13, Gueye 0-2 0-0 0, Ogbonda 0-0 2-2 2, Jackson 2-9 2-3 7, Heath 3-6 0-0 7. Totals 24-66 5-7 60.
PENN ST. (5-3)
Banks 2-6 0-0 4, Watkins 5-8 2-4 12, Stevens 5-10 0-0 10, Garner 6-14 2-2 17, Carr 1-9 2-2 4, Jul.Moore 2-3 1-1 5, Reaves 4-7 0-0 9, Samuel 1-4 4-6 6. Totals 26-61 11-15 67.
Halftime–Penn St. 30-28. 3-Point Goals–Georgia Tech 7-16 (Stephens 3-8, Okogie 2-4, Heath 1-1, Jackson 1-3), Penn St. 4-15 (Garner 3-8, Reaves 1-3, Carr 0-1, Banks 0-3). Fouled Out–Lammers. Rebounds–Georgia Tech 35 (Stephens 11), Penn St. 36 (Watkins 12). Assists–Georgia Tech 15 (Jus.Moore 4), Penn St. 14 (Garner 4). Total Fouls–Georgia Tech 16, Penn St. 11. A–6,032 (15,261).