Penn State Basketball

Penn State men’s basketball cruises past Columbia

Behind Shep Garner’s game-high 26 points, the Penn State men’s basketball team overcame an early deficit Friday night to cruise past Columbia 79-65 at the Bryce Jordan Center.

Columbia opened on a 5-0 run, but the Nittany Lions responded shortly thereafter with a 15-0 run of their own. Still, PSU didn’t put the game away until the second half — since Penn State led 38-35 at halftime.

Both Josh Reaves and Tony Carr missed the game with injuries, but five Nittany Lions still reached double figures — including Lamar Stevens (14), Mike Watkins (11), Nazeer Bostick (10) and Satchel Pierce (10).

Watkins finished with a double-double, as he also had 14 rebounds.

With the win, Penn State improves to 4-0. Columbia falls to 1-2.

Turning point

14-0 second-half run: With 12:39 left in the game, Columbia was still hanging around in a 51-46 deficit. But that’s when the Nittany Lions turned it on and put the game out of reach. Watkins got the run started off with a layup and was a critical part of the next five minutes. During that span, Watkins had seven points, four rebounds, two blocks and a steal. That turned a 51-46 PSU lead into a 65-46 cushion.

Player of the game

Guard Shep Garner: He was 10 of 18 from the field and 5 of 11 from 3 to finish with 26 points, which was eight more than anyone else scored in the game. Garner even racked up three steals. Ever since a cold start the first two games, Garner has been solid.

Next game

Penn State vs. Pitt, 9:30 p.m. Monday: The Nittany Lions will next travel to Brooklyn, N.Y., for the Legends Classic at Barclays Center. They will take on Pitt on Monday and will then play either Oklahoma State or Texas A&M on Tuesday.