As Shep Garner released another 3-pointer Tuesday night, his Penn State teammates on the bench rose to their feet and held up three fingers in anticipation of the shot.
The Nittany Lions expected Garner to knock the shot down, and moments later, the shot dropped through the net. The 3-pointer was Garner’s fifth in Penn State’s 75-60 win over Mississippi State in the NIT semifinals at Madison Square Garden — and it also placed Garner atop the Penn State record books for 3-pointers in a career. Garner finished 6 for 9 from beyond the arc, improving his career total to 334 to surpass Pete Lisicky’s record of 332.
He scored 18 points and spearheaded the Nittany Lions’ effort from beyond the arc — Penn State finished 11 for 20 from 3-point range — in the blowout win.
“I’ve seen Shep shoot millions of 3s,” Penn State’s Josh Reaves said. “Every single one he shoots, I think it’s going in. It’s not anything new to me. When he’s open and he shoots, it’s most likely going to go in.”
Minutes before Garner hit the record-setting 3-pointer early in the third quarter, a group of Penn State fans started a “Shep Garner” chant. The Nittany Lions and their fans had plenty of opportunities to celebrate throughout the game after they blew the game open in the second quarter. They did it with five 3-pointers while hitting seven of their first eight shots in the quarter to take a commanding 37-11 lead.
Garner hit the final two 3-pointers during that run in the second quarter, and he stayed hot at the start of the third quarter with his fifth 3-pointer to push the lead to 47-23, securing his place in Nittany Lions’ history.
“He deserves that, too. That’s not a mistake,” Penn State’s John Harrar said. “He deserves it. He tries to get better every day even though he only has one game left now. He’s still trying to get better.”
He’s also pushed his teammates to get better throughout his career. Reaves recalled struggling with his 3-point shot when he first arrived at Penn State and spending time working on his long-range shot after practices.
“You’re tired and you just want to go back in the locker room and change and leave,” Reaves said. “He’d just be like, ‘Yo, let’s go get some more shots up.’”
Nittany Lions forward Lamar Stevens said Garner is probably the best shooter he’s ever played with.
“In high school, he might dunk on somebody, but now he just shoots the ball at a crazy clip,” Stevens said.
Garner said he’s worked on little things to put himself in better position to get open — like pump fakes and moving without the ball. He credited his teammates for setting screens for him and finding him for those shots.
“I put in a lot of work,” Garner said, reflecting on setting the record. “It’s four years’ worth of work. It’s not just about myself.”
With the screens and passes from his teammates, Garner said all he just needs to hit the shot. And the Nittany Lions have come to expect Garner to connect when he fires from beyond the arc.
“When he misses,” Reaves said, “that surprises me.”