The Penn State men’s basketball team saw its three-game win streak snapped as a Rider three-pointer fell through the net as time expired for the 71-70 final at the Bryce Jordan Center. The Broncs’ Frederick Scott scored 12 of his 14 points, including the buzzer-beating three, in the second half.
The game saw 12 lead changes and three ties with four lead changes coming in the final 83 seconds. A 7-0 late-game run by the Broncs erased a 65-59 Penn State lead and put Rider up 66-65. Still, Penn State retook the lead 70-66 behind a jumper by sophomore forward Lamar Stevens and one of five three-pointers by senior guard and leading scorer Shep Garner.
With 14 seconds left, Rider converted a layup to pull the Broncs within two, 70-68. Scott then grabbed a rebound off a Nittany Lion missed free throw with eight ticks left and maneuvered for his final, and most critical, points on the night.
“Give Rider credit, they played hard,” said Penn State coach Patrick Chambers. “We got beat, and they deserved to win…This is where I am an optimist. I hope this is an incredible lesson for these guys, because they’re in a lot of pain, and that’s a good thing. They need to feel the pain before we head into the Big Ten. So let’s hope that we learn from this and understand we have to continue to get better and we have to continue to compete.”
The loss was the first for Penn State this season in a game after leading at the half. The Broncs outscored the Nittany Lions in the second period 40-35 after the two teams matched in overall shooting at 42.9 percent, but the Broncs made two additional three-pointers. Rider had 19 trips to the foul line to Penn State’s 15 with a 10-9 advantage in that category.
All five Nittany Lion starters scored in double figures with Garner connecting for four three-pointers in the first 10 minutes of the contest and finishing with a game-high 18 points. Watkins and Reaves had double-doubles with 10 points each and Reaves pulled down a career-best and game-high 13 rebounds with a career-high eight assists. The junior guard also had five steals, four coming in the opening stanza.
Free throws by Carr and Watkins provided the Nittany Lions’ only offense during a stretch where Scott had a layup to bring Rider within one of the Penn State lead, 65-64, with four minutes left in the game.
Four Broncs overall scored in double figures with 16 coming from Dimencio Vaughn, 15 from Tyere Marshall and 12 from Stevie Jordan. Scott led Rider with nine boards.
Both Watkins and Julian Moore had four blocks in the defensive effort. Moore tied his career-best in in the first half, added four points and caused a turnover before halftime to give the ball back to the Nittany Lions. Watkins’ total moved into third place on Penn State’s career blocks list with 132. Penn State had 12 as a team on the night, the most since recording 13 vs. Northwestern during the 2015-16 season.
Tickets are available for the final Penn State home game of 2017 with a 1p.m. tipoff against Coppin State on Saturday, Dec. 30.