Penn State didn’t let No. 1 Duke run away with a victory.
The Nittany Lions cut a 17-point deficit to nine points with 10 minutes to play and later sliced a 15-point deficit to eight points with less than three minutes left.
Penn State couldn’t pull any closer in a 78-68 loss to the Blue Devils at the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament at Mohegan Sun Arena on Saturday.
“We took another step today,” Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said. “We got better. And that’s our goal Just keep getting better. It’s a process that’s going to take some time, but we’re going to eventually get there.”
Penn State will face No. 24 Cincinnati at 3:30 p.m. Sunday. The Bearcats fell 76-71 to No. 21 Rhode Island on Saturday.
Tony Carr paced the Nittany Lions (2-2) with 20 points.
Frank Jackson led five Duke players in double figures with 17 points, and Amile Jefferson had 16 points and 15 rebounds.
The Blue Devils dealt with injuries as Grayson Allen and Chase Jeter each went down. Allen returned and had 12 points.
Freshmen Harry Giles, Jayson Tatum and Marques Bolden have been out due to injury.
“We’re banged up more than any team I’ve ever coached,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “Before the game and then during the game. I mean, Amile has been hurt this week. He has 15 rebounds and 16 points.”
Penn State made its late run with less than five minutes to play.
Lamar Stevens finished a dunk and Carr knocked down a jumper.
After Jefferson missed a layup, Carr grabbed the rebound and found Shep Garner at the other end for a 3-pointer to make it 72-64 with 2:36 left.
Still trailing 72-64, Penn State committed a turnover before missing a 3-pointer and a layup on its next two possessions.
Duke’s Luke Kennard then hit a pair of free throws to push his team ahead by 10 with 44 seconds left.
Notes: Garner had 15 points, Payton Banks added 13 and Stevens finished with 11 for Penn State. … Penn State finished 6 for 21 from beyond the arc, while Duke finished 9 for 24. … Penn State had 12 assists and 14 turnovers. … Duke outrebounded Penn State 38-37. … Duke’s Matt Jones and Kennard each had 15 points.