Penn State’s Tony Carr stuck his tongue out as he ran back down the floor after connecting on a 3-pointer late in the second half against Northwestern on Thursday night.
He shook his head, then smiled when he turned to play defense with his team ahead by seven points with more than two minutes left. Northwestern called a timeout, and Carr took off toward half-court to start celebrating the big shot with his teammates.
It proved to be the dagger in Penn State’s 65-57 win over the Wildcats at the Big Ten tournament at Madison Square Garden. It capped another brilliant performance by Carr, who finished with a game-high 25 points and lifted his team to victory in the final minutes.
“It’s Madison Square Garden,” Carr said. “Any time you get a chance to play here and make big shots like that, it’s every kid’s dream.”
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Carr will get to take that same floor again when the No. 7-seed Nittany Lions (20-12) take on No. 2-seed Ohio State (24-7) at 6:30 p.m. Friday night. The Buckeyes have already witnessed Carr’s heroics firsthand this season. Carr banked in a 3-pointer just past half-court at the buzzer to stun Ohio State 82-79 in Columbus on Jan. 25, putting the finishing touch on a 28-point night. And he poured in a game-high 30 points in Penn State’s 79-56 win over Ohio State at the Bryce Jordan Center on Feb. 15.
His teammates have come to expect Carr to take over with the game on the line.
“Down the stretch, he made play after play on the offensive end, and that’s what we need him to do,” Penn State guard Shep Garner said. “That’s what we need him to do. That’s his job. We’re kind of used to him playing that way, but we definitely can’t take it for granted.”
Carr, who led the Big Ten in scoring with 20.1 points in conference games this season, relished the opportunity to play at “The World’s Most Famous Arena.” He took some time to look up in the rafters to see the retired jerseys of the former New York Knicks greats. And he knows about the history, mentioning Knicks legends Earl “The Pearl” Monroe and Walt Frazier and recalling that Michael Jordan dropped 55 points in his first game at Madison Square Garden when he returned to the NBA in 1995.
“It’s the mecca of basketball,” Carr said. “It’s just great players, just something about this gym.”
The first-team All-Big Ten guard came through when it mattered most at “The World’s Most Famous Arena” on Thursday night.
After scoring 15 points in the first half, Carr didn’t score in the second half until he hit a pull-up jumper with 6:55 left. That shot tied the game 50-50 and started a run of seven straight points by Carr. He knocked down a pair of free throws to tie it 52-52 before drilling a 3-pointer over Northwestern’s Anthony Gaines to push his team ahead 55-54 with 4:09 left.
Less than two minutes later, Carr nailed the dagger from beyond the arc.
This time, he fired with Northwestern guard Bryant McIntosh guarding him. McItosh contested the shot and turned to watch it fall through the net, while Carr ran down the court, tongue out, enjoying the moment.
“He obviously knew it was winning time, and he stepped up and got aggressive offensively and was just looking to make plays,” McIntosh said. “To his credit, he did.”
It’s what Carr has done all season for the Nittany Lions.
That’s his job — to make plays down the stretch with the game on the line.
“My confidence has been at an all-time high this season,” Carr said. “It never wavers. I’m just playing with great confidence.”