Penn State defeats Grand Canyon

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) — With injuries impacting their lineup early, freshmen have had to play big minutes in Penn State’s new fast-paced offense.

They haven’t disappointed and on Tuesday, the Nittany Lions’ promising freshman class got help from a handful of veterans to pull away from Grand Canyon 85-76.

Rookie Lamar Stevens scored 19 points and top returning scorers Payton Banks (15) and Shep Garner (14) chipped in to lead the Nittany Lions in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament.

“I think we’ve made a lot of good strides over the last three games,” Banks said. “I think we’re jelling well. I feel like the rotation, we’re starting to get used to it, starting to get used to where guys are going to be.”

They were all over the paint in scoring 40 points and netting 20 second-chance points against the Antelopes. Along with Stevens, freshman Tony Carr also had his third-straight double-digit game with 10 points.

This is the type of scoring potential Penn State coach Pat Chambers envisioned when he pledged to meld young and old and chase 80-plus points per game in the preseason. To get there, the Nittany Lions (2-1) needed to overcome a 0-for-9 shooting slump in the first five minutes of the second half that saw them squander a 48-41 halftime lead.

“I found out a lot about my team,” Chambers said. “They dug deep, they got back to the middle of the ring, they punched back and we took the lead.”

Joshua Braun made 5 of 10 3-pointers and led Grand Canyon (0-2) with 25 points. Oscar Frayer, Darion Clark, Keonta Vernon and Shaq Carr also finished in double figures for the Antelopes with 13, 12, 11 and 10 points, respectively.

Braun hit 2 of 3 free throws with 15:29 left to give Grand Canyon a 50-48 lead — its last of the game.

The Nittany Lions put together an impressive 13-7 run immediately thereafter in which Banks and Stevens combined for all 13 points. Stevens tipped in a rebound with 6:06 left to put Penn State up 75-63 for its biggest lead.

“We knew it was going to be tough game,” Grand Canyon coach Dan Majerle said. “We’re shorthanded, DeWayne Russell is our starting point guard, he wasn’t able to play the first two games, we’ll get him back.”

Busy schedule

Penn State played its third game in five days and its schedule remains hectic for the near future. The Nittany Lions will cap the tournament with back-to-back games this weekend and will play five times in the final 11 days of the month.

More from Moore

Julian Moore led Penn State with nine rebounds and had the type of game Chambers hoped he would have earlier. But foul trouble in the first two games limited Moore’s minutes. He played 20 against the Antelopes.

Hurt Lions

Guard Josh Reaves missed his third game with a lower leg injury and he’s not expected to play this weekend. Forward Davis Zemgulis missed his first game with a concussion and Isaiah Washington also sat out for Penn State with an unspecified ailment.

The big picture

Grand Canyon: The Antelopes are 0 for 6 against Power 5 teams and have been outscored 550-365 since they joined the Division I ranks.

Penn State: The Nittany Lions have never began a season with three freshmen starters in three straight games as they have with Stevens, Watkins and Tony Carr this year. Carr and Stevens were in double figures for the third time and Watkins finished with nine points and six rebounds.

Up next

Grand Canyon travels to Uncasville, Connecticut to continue the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament against Albany on Saturday.

Penn State will also visit Uncasville on Saturday where it will face No. 1 Duke.