No. 4 Penn State-Pittsburgh observations: Nittany Lions avenge last season's loss

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No. 4 Penn State-Pittsburgh observations: Nittany Lions avenge last season's loss

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STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – Trace McSorley threw three touchdown passes as No. 4 Penn State beat Pitt 33-14 on Saturday afternoon at Beaver Stadium.

McSorley overcame a slow start to go 15 for 28 for 164 yards, as PSU improved to 2-0. He also threw an interception.

The first two of his scoring strikes went to tight end Mike Gesicki, who has four TD receptions this season. The other went to Saquon Barkley, who caught four passes for 45 yards in all. He also rushed 14 times for 88 yards and a touchdown.

Backup quarterback Ben DiNucci scored Pitt’s touchdown on a three-yard run with 10:09 left in the game. Alex Kessman added a pair of field goals for the Panthers (1-1).

• McSorley had a rough first half against a Pitt secondary that finished next-to-last in the FBS in passing yardage allowed last year (333.2) and yielded 311 yards through the air in an overtime victory over Youngstown State in its season opener. The Panthers also continue to be without suspended safety Jordan Whitehead. Didn’t matter in the early going. McSorley, often under pressure, was wild high most of the half, going 6 for 15 for 44 yards, and saw his last-second Hail Mary picked by Dane Jackson.

• McSorley went 9 for 13 for 120 yards in the second half, including his 46-yard scoring pass to Barkley in the third quarter. On that play McSorley found his running back single-covered by Saleem Brightwell down the middle. Barkley collected the pass and ran untouched to the end zone.

• Barkley, renowned for his work in the weight room, powered through tacklers while scoring from eight yards out on the first play of the fourth quarter.

• Lions coach James Franklin had identified Panthers’ wide receiver Quadree Henderson as a potential “game-wrecker” in the days leading up to the game, but PSU bottled him up. Henderson, who generated 201 all-purpose yards in Pitt’s 42-39 victory last year, managed 33. He was notably tackled by Nick Scott and Garrett Taylor for losses of seven and six yards on respective first-half punt returns.

• Max Browne had somehow emerged as USC’s starting quarterback to start the 2016 season, only to lose the job to redshirt freshman Sam Darnold before the fourth game — the same Sam Darnold who torched Penn State in the Rose Bowl, and is now regarded as a Heisman candidate. Browne followed the graduate-transfer route to Pitt but, in his second start, threw two first-half interceptions. The first, an overthrow gathered in by PSU cornerback Grant Haley, came four plays into the game and led to the first of McSorley’s TD passes to Gesicki, an eight-yarder.

• The Panthers rushed for 50 of their 70 first-half yards on their last possession before halftime, a 15-play, 77-yard march culminating in Alex Kessman’s 28-yard field goal. Pitt ran 46 plays to PSU’s 24 in the first half, and controlled the ball for 21:51 to Penn State’s 8:09, but trailed 14-3 at the break.

• Pitt made good use of the shovel pass all game long, but particularly on its nine-play, 75-yard TD drive in the fourth quarter. Qadree Ollison took one 30 yards, and Browne found tight end Matt Flanagan for eight on another.

• DiNucci entered the game on third-and-goal at the 3, after Browne lost his helmet on the previous play and by rule had to depart for one play. DiNucci skirted left end to score, then threw yet another shovel pass to Ollison for the two-point conversion, cutting Penn State’s lead to 28-14.

• Besides his early interception, Haley had his first career sack to end Pitt’s second possession. He also combined with defensive end Shareef Miller and safety Nick Scott to stop Henderson for a three-yard loss on a second-and-goal snap in the third quarter. Pitt wound up settling for Kessman’s second field goal.

• Safety Marcus Allen recorded a safety with 5:53 left in the game, beating the block of Jaryd Jones-Smith to tackle running back Darrin Hall in the end zone, after he gathered in a pass from Browne.

Penn State tops Utah to win NIT championship

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Penn State tops Utah to win NIT championship

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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.