Penn State Basketball

Penn State men’s basketball bounces back with win over Duquesne

Penn State’s Lamar Stevens (11) drives the basket against Duquesne’s Isiaha Mike during Sunday’s game at the Bryce Jordan Center in State College.
Penn State’s Lamar Stevens (11) drives the basket against Duquesne’s Isiaha Mike during Sunday’s game at the Bryce Jordan Center in State College. For the Centre Daily Times

Lamar Stevens lived at the free-throw line Sunday night.

The Penn State freshman cashed in on his opportunities, too.

Stevens went 12 for 13 from the line and finished with a game-high 24 points to help the Nittany Lions to an 82-74 win over Duquesne at the Bryce Jordan Center.

“He shot beautiful free throws today,” Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said. “I just shared a story with them about (Kawhi) Leonard from the Spurs, about how they call him the robot and all he does is shoot free throws. It’s the most boring workout in the history of workouts. But boring is really good.”

On a night when junior guard Shep Garner scored just six points on 2 for 7 shooting, Penn State’s newcomers carried the scoring load.

In addition to Stevens’ big night, freshman guard Tony Carr added 20 points and seven rebounds, and redshirt freshman forward Mike Watkins finished with 15 points, six rebounds and five blocks in the team’s first win.

“That bodes well for our team and our future,” Chambers said. “We have some things to work on. The climb continues, but this was a good step today.”

The Nittany Lions bounced back from a season-opening loss to Albany on Friday night.

Chambers credited the team’s captains — Garner, Payton Banks and Terrence Samuel — for how the team responded.

They encouraged going hard at practice Saturday with another game looming Sunday.

And they were ready to go when they took the floor against the Dukes.

“I feel like the season opener kind of gave us a wakeup call,” Carr said. “Once we lost and we went back and had a great practice and we kind of just refocused as a team and just know that we have to come out with a different mentality.”

Watkins highlighted Penn State’s start.

The big man scored the team’s first six points and displayed the same energy he did in the opener.

On the team’s first possession, Watkins split Duquesne’s Isiaha Mike and Darius Lewis to grab a miss and finish in the paint. He banked in his second shot and tipped in a lob from Banks to make it 6-2.

The Nittany Lions pulled away in the final 10 minutes.

After Duquesne tied it 56-56 with 10:19 to play, Penn State went on a 6-0 run and held the lead for the rest of the game.

Stevens hit a jumper to start the run and hit a pair of free throws to make it 62-56.

“Lamar is going to do some great things for us, but we need consistency now,” Chambers said.

Carr later extended the lead to seven points with a 3-pointer and assisted on a 3 by Garner that pushed the lead to 75-65 with 2:51 left.

With 15.5 seconds left and the game already decided, Stevens made his final trip to the line.

He threw his head back in frustration after his first miss of the night, then drilled the second free throw for the team’s final point.

“I was just trying to be aggressive,” Stevens said. “... My teammates continuously found me around the rim and I was just able to attack and get fouled.”

Notes: Chambers said Davis Zemgulis likely had a concussion during Sunday’s game. Zemgulis scored two points in 10 minutes. ... Chambers said there’s a “good chance” that Josh Reaves, who has been out due to a leg injury, will not play in Penn State’s games in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament in Uncasville, Conn., on Saturday and Sunday. The Nittany Lions play No. 1 Duke on Saturday. ... Penn State hosts Grand Canyon at 7 p.m. Tuesday.