Payton Banks and the rest of the Penn State bench jumped to their feet after what proved to be the game’s final bucket.
The Penn State forward whipped his towel toward the court in excitement, and Nittany Lions guard Shep Garner gave a fist pump with a towel over his shoulder while Lamar Stevens, also sporting a towel, threw both arms out as he reacted to walk-on teammate Grant Hazle scoring his first career points.
The trio of Penn State players’ nights on the court had been long over with their team cruising to a 96-55 win over Morgan State (3-8) on Wednesday at the Bryce Jordan Center. They helped build a 20-point halftime lead and stayed sharp in the second half to surpass the 90-point mark for the second straight game. Penn State last achieved that feat at the start of the 1995-96 season.
Coming off a blowout win over St. John’s, the Nittany Lions (8-5) got a balanced scoring effort and played solid defense to finish their nonconference schedule with a 41-point victory.
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“This is what I envisioned, for sure,” Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said. “That 35-5 run against St. John’s and some good runs tonight of us getting stops. It all starts with getting stops and rebounds. If we can get some stops and rebounds, we’re making some really good decisions.”
Stevens scored 20 points to lead six players in double figures. Banks and Tony Carr both had 11, while Garner, Mike Watkins and Julian Moore each had 10. Carr finished with 10 rebounds and eight assists, and Josh Reaves added six assists to contribute to Penn State’s total of 23.
The Nittany Lions never trailed Wednesday. They opened on a 7-0 run, forcing Morgan State to call a timeout 1:07 into the game, and went on a 14-0 later in the half to build a 21-point lead.
Stevens helped power the Nittany Lions offense during the 14-0 run. He followed a three-point play with another drive to push Penn State’s run to 7-0 and its lead to 33-19. He remained aggressive, looking to dunk in the paint to earn another trip to the foul line, where he hit 1 of 2 shots.
“That’s where I feel like I’m the best at, when I get inside,” Stevens said.
He also excels throwing down dunks on the break.
The freshman forward got everyone’s attention with a two-handed slam off a pass from Garner in the first half, exploding toward the rim for the finish early in the first half.
“He obviously had a monster one today, but he is fearless when he’s going to the basket,” Chambers said. “And he also will jump stop and make an extra pass so he’s becoming a really good basketball player.”
So is Carr.
The freshman point guard logged a team-high 34 minutes and nearly recorded a triple double.
He connected with Nazeer Bostick for an alley oop for his eighth assist, then pulled down his 10th rebound with more than two minutes to play.
Carr said he was going for the triple double, but he finished two assists shy of the feat.
“I definitely knew I was getting close to it,” Carr said. “You can kind of feel it in the course of the game, and you just try to achieve goals like that.”
When Carr checked out with 1:25 left, Hazle entered the game. Twelve seconds later, the freshman from Texas finished a layup to give Penn State a 96-55 lead.
The Nittany Lions open Big Ten play at home against Northwestern at 3 p.m. Tuesday.