Nittany Lions go cold in final minutes

CANCUN, Mexico — The final shot for the Penn State men’s basketball team just … wouldn’t … quite … fall … in … and the Nittany Lions’ rally fell short in the Cancun Challenge championship game as Bradley got a 59-56 victory Wednesday night.

In fact, Penn State got off three shots in the final minute but each one came up short.

Junior forward Lamar Stevens recorded his fifth-straight 20-plus point game of the season with 27 and set the Cancun Challenge scoring record with 99 points over the four tournament games.

“I was proud of the way we fought and competed and came back and cut it to a one or two possession game,” Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said. “We had some good looks. Sometimes the ball doesn’t go your way and it doesn’t go in, but yet, we were still in the game, we were still right there, we were still within striking distance. I can’t say that we didn’t play hard or compete, I thought we did. They made one more play than us.”

The Nittany Lions took a one-point lead at halftime, 33-32, but struggled after the break, starting 1-for-10 from the field. The Braves ran off nine unanswered points and held a six-point lead at the first media timeout of the half. That lead went to 11 points.

Penn State cut into the deficit with freshman guard Rasir Bolton connecting on the first of his two treys and four free throws by Stevens. Bolton’s second 3-pointer cut Bradley’s lead to only two, 57-55 with 4:09 to play.

Seconds later, Bradley’s Elijah Childs’ hit a jumper for his 13th point of the half and 18th of the game for a four-point lead, 59-55. Turnovers by the Braves gave the Nittany Lions a few more possessions, but they didn’t convert to points for Penn State.

Stevens had 16 points in the first half, knocking in a jumper with 11 seconds before halftime to put the Nittany Lions up by one. His stretch of five-straight points gave Penn State a 17-15 lead with 9:42 left in the half and he would tie the game at 25 with two free throws.

With under two minutes left he hit two more free throws for a 28-27 Penn State lead and Stevens’ 3-pointer with less than a minute to play gave the teams the eighth tie of the game at 31.

Bolton had eight of his 10 points in the second period as the only other Nittany Lion in double figures.

Both Stevens and Josh Reaves were named to the Cancun Challenge All-Tournament team with Bradley’s Darrell Brown, MVP Childs, Loudon Love of Wright State and Jahmal McMurray of SMU.

The Nittany Lions return home to the Jordan Center to play host to No. 13 Virginia Tech at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 27. The game will air on ESPN 2.

PENN STATE (3-2): Stevens 7-20 12-14 27, Harrar 3-5 1-2 7, Reaves 0-6 4-4 4, Wheeler 0-4 0-0 0, Dread 1-7 0-0 3, Buttrick 0-0 1-2 1, Jones 2-5 0-0 4, Bolton 4-12 0-0 10. Totals 17-59 18-22 56.

BRADLEY (5-1): Childs 8-13 0-1 18, Bar 2-2 4-6 8, Brown 5-13 3-4 16, Kennell 2-9 1-3 6, Lautier-Ogunleye 3-5 0-1 8, van Bree 0-0 0-0 0, Pittman 1-5 0-0 2, Hodgson 0-1 0-0 0, Brummett 0-1 0-0 0, Henry 0-0 1-2 1. Totals 21-49 9-17 59.

Halftime–Penn St. 33-32. 3-Point Goals–Penn St. 4-27 (Bolton 2-8, Stevens 1-4, Dread 1-7, Wheeler 0-1, Jones 0-2, Reaves 0-5), Bradley 8-24 (Brown 3-6, Lautier-Ogunleye 2-3, Childs 2-4, Kennell 1-6, Hodgson 0-1, Brummett 0-1, Pittman 0-3). Fouled Out–None. Rebounds–Penn St. 43 (Reaves 9), Bradley 25 (Bar 8). Assists–Penn St. 6 (Stevens 3), Bradley 13 (Brown 5). Total Fouls–Penn St. 19, Bradley 18. A–1,473 (0).