In crucial spots Wednesday night, Penn State buried Colgate’s hopes with a 3-pointer.
The Nittany Lions took the lead for good when Payton Banks swished one of his team-high four 3-pointers during a game-changing first half run. They fought of Colgate’s comeback attempts in the second half with more timely long-range bombs, ultimately gaining separation when Shep Garner knocked down a 3-pointer with just more than five minutes to play.
It was the team’s season-high 11th and final 3 in a 72-59 win over Colgate at the Bryce Jordan Center. Penn State (3-3) finished 11 for 26 from 3-point range, matching their total from their previous two games at the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament last weekend.
The Nittany Lions went 11 for 41 combined in losses to then-No. 1 Duke and then-No. 24 Cincinnati, but they found their stroke Wednesday night.
“I just think we shared the ball, guys were down, ready shooters,” Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said. “We gave up good for great. That’s what we have to continue to do.”
Banks led the team’s effort from beyond the arc and finished with a team-high 20 points. Terrence Samuel had 16 points, Tony Carr added 14 points and Garner finished with three 3-pointers and 10 points.
Will Rayman finished with a game-high 28 points and five 3-pointers for the Raiders (1-3), who went 10 for 21 from beyond the arc.
Josh Reaves had five points and four rebounds in 17 minutes in his season debut after missing the first five games due to a leg injury.
“His 17 minutes were exactly what I thought they’d be,” Chambers said. “A little rusty, maybe a step behind, but four offensive rebounds, I’m sure a ton of deflections.”
Penn State got going from beyond the arc early.
Garner hit a 3-pointer on Penn State’s first possession, and Banks connected on a pair of long-range bombs to give his team an early 9-5 lead.
Colgate used the 3-pointer to build its own lead in the first half. After 3-pointers by Tom Rivard and Jordan Swopshire, the Raiders led 21-15 with less than six minutes left in the first half.
The Nittany Lions turned that deficit into a seven-point halftime lead after closing the half on a 15-2 run.
Penn State went ahead for good on Banks’ 3-pointer over Rivard with 4:22 left in the half. Davis Zemgulis knocked down a 3 on the team’s next possession to push the lead to 26-21 and the Nittany Lions went into the break with a 30-23 lead.
Chambers let his team know he wasn’t happy with its 3-point defense — Colgate went 5 for 9 — at halftime.
“He definitely got on us at halftime,” Samuel said. “... There’s a lot of things I can’t repeat.”
Banks said defense was the team’s focus going into the game.
“Coach has been literally stressing to us every chance he can get that our offensive opportunities are going to come if we just get stops,” Banks said.
The Nittany Lions capitalized on their offensive opportunities in the second half, holding off Colgate with some timely 3s.
When Colgate pulled within four with more than 12 minutes left, Carr responded with a 3-pointer. After the Raiders pulled within four again, Samuel drilled his lone 3 to give his team a 53-46 lead with 7:40 to go.
On Penn State’s next possession, after a Colgate layup, Garner connected from the corner to push the lead to eight.
Nearly two minutes later, Garner hit the team’s final 3 and Colgate didn’t a response in the final five minutes.
“It’s nice to have that in our back pocket,” Chambers said of his team’s performance from long range. “But we have to do a better job defending the 3.”
Notes: Penn State finished with 14 assists and nine turnovers. ... The Nittany Lions outrebounded Colgate 43-31. Mike Watkins and Carr both had seven rebounds to lead the team. ... Lamar Stevens went scoreless in 12 minutes. Stevens went into Wednesday averaging 14.4 points. ... Penn State returns to action at George Washington at 4 p.m. Saturday.