Penn State sprung some surprises on Michigan in blowout victory

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Penn State sprung some surprises on Michigan in blowout victory

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — It was 11:23 p.m. Saturday night — James Franklin, poised to address reporters in the Beaver Stadium media room, knew the time because he checked a cellphone lying before him — and Penn State’s coach said that would allow him exactly 37 minutes to enjoy the 42-13 victory over Michigan (see observations).

After that, it was time to move on, time for the second-ranked Nittany Lions to prepare for the next step down a treacherous path. That involves a visit to No. 6 Ohio State next weekend, with another trip, to No. 18 Michigan State, to follow.

Franklin wasn’t about to discuss the Buckeyes within that precious 37-minute window. There will be time enough for that in the days to come.

But what seems apparent is the Lions have the ability and adaptability to run with the Big Ten’s big dogs — that if they lose next week, it will be because of the Buckeyes’ strengths, not their weaknesses.

On Saturday night, PSU was as good as it has been against a quality team in Franklin’s three-plus seasons on the job, outgaining the No. 19 Wolverines, 506-269, and unleashing Saquon Barkley and Trace McSorley for three touchdowns apiece.

“Everybody’s been saying we haven’t been playing anybody this year,” wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton said. “Obviously we played somebody today.”

Somebody who came away pretty, pretty impressed.

“They hit us on quite a few plays that we have defensed well this year,” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said. “I thought their execution was really good tonight, right from the beginning.”

As in, the second play from scrimmage. That’s when Barkley lined up in the Wildcat — a formation the Lions hadn’t shown all year — and zipped 69 yards for a touchdown. He then capped their second possession by scoring on an option pitch, something else PSU hadn’t done much this season.

Franklin had said in the days leading up to the game the Lions had something up their sleeves, that they were waiting to spring some stratagems on the Big Ten heavyweights. The wrinkles, he added Saturday, were things they had worked on during the preseason.

“The fact that we have some recall helps,” he said.

So too did the fact they had a week off to prepare for the Wolverines.

“We watched, probably, seven different games of Michigan film,” Hamilton said. “It really helped a lot.”

Michigan cut the gap to 14-13, but then the Lions ran away and hid. It was difficult to find fault with any aspect of their performance, though Franklin tried. He thought the defense could have handled sudden change better, seeing as Michigan charged downfield for a touchdown after McSorley threw a first-quarter interception.

Barkley tried, too. On a day when he generated 176 all-purpose yards — 108 of them on the ground — the Heisman hopeful fixated on his second-quarter drop of a McSorley pass, on a wheel route down the left sideline.

“Sometimes I overthink and I just put myself in bad situations,” Barkley said. “I should have just caught it first. I was thinking score. I was thinking about catching the ball. I felt the safety. I felt his presence. I wanted to try to make him miss and find a way to get into the end zone.”

He atoned with a 42-yard TD reception in the fourth quarter, though he juggled that one, too.

“I was able to run through it,” he said. “It humbles you again, makes you realize you’ve got to put a little more work in. You’ve got to find a way to make those plays.”

Especially now that the celebration, brief as it was, is over. It’s time to take another step down a treacherous path, time to find out where it might lead.

Penn State tops Utah to win NIT championship

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Penn State tops Utah to win NIT championship

BOX SCORE

NEW YORK -- Flavor Flav had his red cap flipped backward as he pulled out his iPhone on the Madison Square Garden court. Flav held the camera steady and recorded cousin Shep Garner clip the final strands of the championship net and wave it toward the Penn State die-hards.

Flav's T-shirt at the NIT said it all for the Nittany Lions: Believe the hype!

Garner hit the 3-pointer that brought rapper and reality star Flavor Flav to his feet and helped send Penn State on its way to an NIT title in an 82-66 victory over Utah on Thursday night.

The fourth-seeded Nittany Lions (26-13) also knocked off No. 1 seed Notre Dame in the tournament en route to winning their first NIT title since 2009.

"This means the whole world to me right now ," Flavor Flav said.

They were pretty pumped in Happy Valley, too.

"I think we set the standard," Garner said. "We preach defense and rebounding, but now we have something we can always go to. We won something. We're champions."

Flavor Flav, member of the seminal `80s rap group Public Enemy, sang along to "Fight the Power" as it blasted in the Garden and had the PSU student section chanting "Flav! Flav! Flav!" as the Nittany Lions pulled away for a program-defining championship under coach Pat Chambers.

Lamar Stevens scored 28 points, Josh Reaves had 18 and Tony Carr had 15 points and 14 assists for Penn State.

Penn State's Bryce Jordan Center has a long-standing reputation as one of the dreariest arenas in college basketball. Penn State fans, from rappers to silver-haired alumni, packed the Garden all the way to the last row of the upper deck.

Penn State football coach James Franklin, who led the program to a Pinstripe Bowl victory in 2014, was in the house. Flavor Flav stole the show a few rows behind the PSU bench. Wearing a T-shirt that read "33 Shep Garner," Flavor Flav danced all night in his seat. Flavor Flav popped his T-shirt and raised the roof in the same arena where Public Enemy once tore down the house.

"I think we've proven to teams across the country that Penn State basketball is here to stay," Chambers said.

The clutch moment came in the third quarter when Garner -- who became Penn State's career 3-point leader in the tournament run -- hit a 3 for his first basket of the game and a 49-41 lead that had the fans going wild.

"To see my cousin break records, win trophies, all that, he deserves it," Flavor Flav said. "The whole team deserves it."

Reaves hit a crashing layup on a three-point play that stretched the lead to 11 and Stevens wagged his tongue toward the PSU fans on a jumper that helped blow open the game.

Flavor Flav raised an arm in the air when Garner sank a 3 early in the fourth for a 68-49 edge that all but put this one away.

The final minutes certainly put some flava in your ear -- half the MSG crowd chanted "We Are!" and the other half bellowed "Penn State!"

Yeah, boy!

Sedrick Barefield hit six 3s and scored 22 points for second-seeded Utah (23-12).

"You're always kind of watching the NIT and maybe you think of it as the consolation prize or whatever," Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said. "They have no idea how cool this was for us."

Big picture
Utah: David Collette, Justin Bibbins and Tyler Rawson are among the seniors moving on. ... Bibbins scored 15 points.

Penn State: Stevens reached 1,000 career points was named most outstanding player. ... Chambers, a former assistant coach under Jay Wright at Villanova, took over in 2011 and has struggled to find any kind of regular success. The Nittany Lions have never made the NCAA Tournament under Chambers and they'll have just their second winning record in seven seasons. But Penn State's 26 wins are second-highest in program history. The Nittany Lions won a record 27 games in 2008-09.

Big crowd
The 11,175 fans at MSG were the most for an NIT final since 2005.

"And you say we're a football school," Chambers cracked.

Something different
The NIT was a bit of a mad scientist in the college basketball lab. The game featured four 10-minute quarters. The tournament also implemented the FIBA 3-point line (22 feet, 1.75 inches), NBA-width lane of 16 inches, and a 20-second shot clock following offensive rebounds.

Penn State dominates Mississippi State to reach NIT title game

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Penn State dominates Mississippi State to reach NIT title game

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NEW YORK -- Nearly a month after Penn State was bounced out of the Big Ten Tournament, the Nittany Lions are back at Madison Square Garden with another chance to win a championship.

Tony Carr scored 21 points, Shep Garner added 18 while breaking the school record for career 3-pointers and Penn State routed Mississippi State 75-60 in the National Invitation Tournament semifinals Tuesday night.

"Of course we were a little disappointed not to make the (NCAA) Tournament, but we made another goal," Garner said. "We saw we were in the NIT and our goal was to get to New York and win it. That's what everyone wants to do. We put ourselves in position to do so."

The fourth-seeded Nittany Lions (25-13) will play No. 2 seed Utah for the title Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.

After the score was tied 9-all, Penn State ended the first quarter on a 9-2 run. From there, the Nittany Lions opened the second with a 19-0 spurt capped by Garner's 3 off an assist from Carr to make it 37-11.

With football coach James Franklin cheering from the stands, Penn State went up 42-23 at halftime and led by as many as 27.

Mississippi State (25-12) wasn't able to get within 20 again until there was 7:56 left in the game. Abdul Ado's dunk made it 65-47, but that was the closest the Bulldogs got before the waning moments.

"We were really impatient," Mississippi State coach Ben Howland said. "Once we started falling behind, we got anxious and we were shooting quick. Quick, bad shots and it just like, snowballed."

Tyson Carter scored 19 points off the bench to lead No. 4 seed Mississippi State. Ado had 13 points and seven rebounds.

Lamar Stevens scored 17 for Penn State, which shot 11 of 20 from 3-point territory. Carr had six assists and five rebounds.

Big picture
Penn State: While the Nittany Lions would have preferred to play in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011, they made the NIT for the first time under seventh-year coach Pat Chambers. Penn State's last trip to the NIT title game was in 2009, when it beat Baylor for the crown. The school's only other appearance in the final was a loss to Minnesota in 1998.

Mississippi State: With just one senior on the roster, the Bulldogs will return most of their team and have something positive to build off as they try to move up the rankings in the rugged SEC next season.

Record producer
With his six 3-pointers, Garner broke Penn State's record for 3s in an NIT along with the school mark of 332 held by Pete Lisicky (1995-98). Garner also had six 3s in the Big Ten Tournament semifinal loss to Purdue, giving him 12 in his last two games at Madison Square Garden and 334 for his career.

"They say the record is an individual record, but I've had a lot of teammates that had a lot to do with the record," Garner said. "A lot of people that set screens for me to get me open, break passes to them, they put it right on the button for me and I just finish the job. That's a team record. It's a lot of people that had stuff to do with it. I tip my hat to my teammates and my coaches to put me in a position to do something special like that."

Up next
Penn State: Will try to win the second NIT championship in school history when it faces Utah (23-11), which beat Western Kentucky 69-64 in the first semifinal.

Mississippi State: Starts preparing for a promising 2018-19 season.