AP Sports Writer
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Lamar Stevens scored 18 points and Tony Carr had 14 to lead Penn State to a 72-63 win over Michigan State at the Palestra on Saturday.
The Nittany Lions (10-7, 2-2 Big Ten) pulled off a big win for the program at the famed Philly gym and beat the Spartans for the first time since 2011. The Nittany Lions led almost the entire game and gave thousands of fans who came out in the snow a reason to bellow “We Are!” in the waning minutes.
Nick Ward scored 16 points and was the only player to have a decent game for the Spartans (11-6, 3-1). Michigan State coach Tom Izzo had called his program playing a game at the Palestra one of the few items left on his basketball bucket list.
The Spartans missed too many buckets instead, missing 16 of 23 3s and they shot 37 percent from the floor overall in the second half.
The only Penn State boos came when Izzo called a timeout with 31 seconds left and Penn State up 71-60.
Izzo was in favor of shifting the game from Penn State to the Palestra.
“It’s going to be thrilling for me,” Izzo said. “It’s one of the meccas of college basketball.”
He might have second thoughts after this one.
The gym long dubbed the Cathedral turned 90 last week and hosted one of its more anticipated games since North Carolina played Penn in 2007. The Palestra, on Penn’s Ivy League campus, had long been the site of all the Big 5 games played by Philly teams Penn, Saint Joseph’s, Temple, La Salle and Villanova. The city games have mostly moved to campus — though No. 1 Villanova packed the place for a win last month against La Salle — and this one was a rare game between two schools with no city ties. The 8,722-seater sold out in September and no tickets were for sale Saturday morning on StubHub.
Penn State tried to claim Philly as its own; one booster delivered a timeout pep talk and boasted “We dominate this city!”
Jay Wright and the Wildcats might dispute that inflammatory claim.
Penn State gladly moved a home game roughly 200 miles east from the gloomy, empty Bryce Jordan Center to a packed gym that thrilled alums and certainly helped coach Pat Chambers highlight the program to a fertile recruiting area.
The game was Penn State’s only scheduled appearance on ESPN this season.
The Nittany Lions had six Philly area players already on the roster. Shep Garner, of Chester, Pennsylvania, had a fan club wearing “We Rep Shep” T-shirts in the bleachers and his mother sang the national anthem.
While pockets of green sprouted throughout the ol’ gym, this was a true PSU home game. Penn State even aired a football highlight video that celebrated the Rose Bowl appearance and the Nittany Lion mascot posed for photos with the Big Ten championship trophy.
The “We Are” chants turned into massive cheers as the Nittany Lions rolled to a 44-32 halftime lead. The sequence that got the crowd rocking came when forward Josh Reaves had a monster blocked shot on one end that led to Payton Banks’ 3 on the other for a 27-19 lead.
Michigan State: Returns home Wednesday to play Minnesota at the Breslin Center.
Penn State: Off until Saturday when it has a home game against the Gophers.
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