Rider coach Kevin Baggett didn’t need to give his team a pep talk before his team’s game against Penn State on Friday night.
Baggett said Nittany Lions forward Nazeer Bostick provided all the motivation his players needed.
“I’m going to say this, Nazeer Bostick was nice enough in warmups to go across to coaches and players and say, ‘This game will be over in the first 10 minutes of the game,’” Baggett said. “Not only did he say it once, he said it a couple times.”
Baggett relayed Bostick’s words back to his team, and Rider went out and stunned Penn State 71-70 at the Bryce Jordan Center on a game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer by Frederick Scott. The Nittany Lions (10-4) led by as many as 10 points in the second half, but they let Rider (7-5) rally to be in position to pull the upset on the final possession.
“You got to get your kids ready to play,” Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said. “You got to motivate your kids, and I got to do a better job. I saw it slipping a little bit in practice and we tried to re-engage with them to get them prepared and limit distractions and not think about going home after this game.”
The Nittany Lions return to action Dec. 30 against Coppin State to close out their nonconference schedule.
On Friday night, Penn State faced a team that was ready to compete after Bostick’s bold statement. Baggett said Rider coaches heard Bostick say it a couple times, and a few of the Rider players heard him say it while they were shooting during warmups.
“I don’t know if that’s true,” Chambers said. “I heard a different story.”
“I heard that he had something; the coach said something to Naz,” Chambers said when asked about that story. “I’m not here for hearsay. I’m here to coach my team, and obviously I didn’t do a very good job of that tonight. We got to continue to work, but I’m not getting into that.”
Still, Baggett wrote Bostick’s words on the whiteboard to motivate his team. And they didn’t back down from the Nittany Lions. Rider rallied in the final 22 seconds to shock Penn State after Shep Garner gave the Nittany Lions a 70-66 lead on a 3-pointer.
Rider’s Stevie Jordan hit a floater to cut Penn State’s lead to 70-68 with 14 seconds left, and Penn State forward Lamar Stevens missed two free throws with 8.2 seconds left to leave the door open for Rider.
Scott knocked down the 3-pointer as time ran out to lift his team to the win.
“It was just a tough shot,” said Garner, who led Penn State with 18 points. “He made it at the buzzer. It was a contested shot. That’s what we wanted to do. We didn’t want to give them an open shot. We didn’t want to foul ’em. He made a tough shot.”
Scott was immediately tackled by his Rider teammates, who piled onto each other at halfcourt to celebrate. They poured water on Scott when he arrived in the locker room, and Baggett showed up to his postgame press conference with a soaked shirt and a towel.
The Nittany Lions were crushed by the last-second shot.
“I hope this is an incredible lesson for these guys because they’re in a lot of pain,” Chambers said. “And that’s a good thing. They need to feel the pain before we head into the Big Ten.”
Chambers said he felt his team was going through the motions in the loss, but he didn’t think his team overlooked Rider “at all.”
“I think they know half the team,” Chambers said. “I think that’s why there was a little talking going on between the players. There was a lot of talking going on on the court, but you need to back it up.”