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Penn State Basketball: Nittany Lions Grind Out 54-50 Win

by on December 12, 2015 5:13 PM

With 8:49 left on the clock Shep Garner had yet to score a single point.

By 8:48 that had changed, a steal and driving layup that tied the game at 37-37 as Penn State and Louisiana-Monroe battled in a rock fight of an outing as the Nittany Lions won 54-50 at Rec Hall, Saturday afternoon.

After that basket Garner would score six more crucial points. All told Penn State's rising sophomore's eight points in the final eight minutes kept the Nittany Lions in a game that could have gone either way. Each basket a gift, each defensive stop a grind.

"I grabbed him in the huddle and told him I needed him," senior forward Brandon Taylor said after the game. And Garner delivered.

It was a game that Penn State has lost on many occasions. The shots fell at a mind-numbingly low 32.7%, just 25.8% in the first half. Everything was a struggle, but the Nittany Lions relied on stout defense forcing multiple shot clock violations and turnovers in the middle of the second half to help steady the ship.

The first half was not much different. Both teams traded baskets and misses, stops and mistakes. Penn State on the tail end of four games in eight days and finals on the horizon. If there was a game to simply survive this was the one. By the time halftime hit and Penn State led 25-24 it was as much halfway home as it was halfway done.

By the night's end Taylor would lead Penn State with 16 points while Payton Banks and Josh Reaves chipped in 10 and nine points respectively. Jordan Dickerson always had an effective night with a six point, five rebound and career high seven block outing to anchor Penn State's defense.

It was a block by Reaves in the game's final seconds up just four points that put the icing on the cake. Reaves sprinting out of nowhere to block a long three into the crowd. After Taylor's two free throws on the other end put the Nittany Lions up four, Reaves' block made sure there would be no final second come from behind shot.

Penn State improves to 7-3 on the year and will take time off for finals prior to a Friday trip to face Drexel in Philadelphia at the Palestra.

It wasn't a pretty win, but learning how to win ugly games is a skill not to be overlooked.

Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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