Penn State holds off Georgia Tech behind Garner
STATE COLLEGE — Shep Garner's confident if he is not making shots, one of his teammates will.
It is 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 still is 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 minutes, 57 seconds, 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, and 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.”