The Penn State men’s basketball team gutted out a 70-57 win over Montana in the Bryce Jordan Center Wednesday night as part of the Legends Classic University Park Regional. A 9-2 run in the final minutes pushed the Nittany Lions past the Grizzlies for their third win of the 2017-18 season. Sophomore forward Lamar Stevens scored 15 of his 25 points in the second half and had seven rebounds in the victory.

Penn State built a 10-point lead, 51-41, midway through the second half, in part due to a sharp-shooting 10-14 from the field. Montana challenged the Nittany Lions by hitting four of its next five baskets to pull within one, 51-50. A triple by senior guard Shep Garner, who was 1-4 in the first half, and layup by junior guard Josh Reaves for a quick 5-0 run over 40 seconds switched the momentum back to Penn State.

“I learned (tonight) that we have some tough kids who believe in what we’re doing,” said coach Patrick Chambers. “They believe in one another, they believe in what the staff’s doing. There’s a lot of trust we’re building here. I’m not going to say that it’s all the way there yet, but you saw that in a game when things weren’t going our way. You can easily put your head down after missing all those free throws. You could easily put your head down after turnovers. I thought our guys, for the most part, kept it together. To hold that team, and that’s a talented team, to 57 points, shows what we’ve got inside that chest.”

Montana fought back again to trim an eight-point lead back to three with four minutes left in the game. A 10-second backcourt violation on the Grizzlies put the ball back into the hands of the Nittany Lions where Garner delivered a picture-perfect three-pointer and then hit another after a Stevens steal to push Penn State back in front by nine, 64-55. 

An aggressive Nittany Lion defense held Montana to only 32.3 percent shooting in the second half and 39.3 percent overall. Penn State, which shot 57.1 percent in the second half, recorded its highest field goal and three-point field goal percentage of the year at 50 percent.
Stevens added two assists, two steals and a block to his night’s totals. Garner and Reaves matched with 12 points on the night and redshirt sophomore Mike Watkins had eight points and four blocks.

“My teammates and coaches instilled a lot of confidence in me and when Tony [Carr] went down; everybody had to step up, and tonight, my teammates just found me in the right spots and I was able to make my shots,” said Stevens. “It was a great team win, but everybody stepped up to get the win.” 

Early on, Penn State and Montana traded six leads and were tied four times before the Nittany Lions took a 34-29 lead at halftime. Penn State held an opponent to less than 60 points for the second straight game.

Penn State’s four-game homestand comes to a close against Columbia on Friday, November 17.