HOWARD FENDRICH, AP Sports Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) — Rapper and reality TV personality Flavor Flav stood up from his third-row seat at the Big Ten Tournament, raised his arms and yelled, “Make this count!”
He was talking to his cousin, Penn State junior guard Shep Garner, who already had made a 3-pointer that rattled in as the shot-clock buzzer sounded in overtime and now was stepping to the foul line with 80 seconds left. Garner coolly made both attempts and wound up with seven of Penn State’s 16 points in OT, leading the 13th-seeded Nittany Lions to a 76-67 victory over Nebraska in the conference tourney’s opening game Wednesday.
“It was a surprise. I didn’t know he was coming,” Garner said about his better-known relative, a member of the seminal ’80s rap group Public Enemy. “But he does things like that. He doesn’t tell you; he just pops up and makes a scene. He’s that type of guy.”
Flavor Flav said this was the first Penn State game he attended this season. Wearing a green shirt and backward green Yankees baseball hat, along with an alarm clock around his neck — his signature accessory — he was inundated with selfie requests from fans.
“I shot around with him before, but we never played together and we never played against each other,” he said about Garner. “I’m going to wait until after this season, because me and him — we have a date at the basketball court.”
Garner made his mark on this game, scoring 16 points while going 4 for 7 on 3s, all despite a recent foot injury.
“That experience of playing in the Big Ten these last couple years really shined through today,” Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said. “He gutted it out, for sure.”
Penn State (15-17) never trailed and ended a five-game losing streak, advancing to face Michigan State in the second round.
“We’ve had a lot of games this year where we get into one- and two-possession games and one point and two points and we’ve been coming up short. So I felt like I had to make a play for my teammates, for my team,” Garner said. “I wanted to do it.”
Freshman Mike Watkins produced 18 points, 11 rebounds and a Big Ten Tournament-record eight blocks.
“There’s more consistent effort there,” Chambers said. “There’s more willingness there.”
Evan Taylor led 12th-seeded Nebraska (12-19) with 15 points. Tai Webster shot 4 for 16 and fouled out in OT with 12 points, only two after halftime.
Watkins helped limit Nebraska to 34 percent shooting.
“We just couldn’t get anything going at the rim,” Nebraska coach Tim Miles said. “That hurt us.”
Penn State: Coach Patrick Chambers got a vote of confidence from AD Sandy Barbour over the weekend, but the Nittany Lions haven’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 2011, before Chambers was in charge.
Nebraska: As the game ended, AD Shawn Eichorst tweeted that Miles will be back, despite the team’s collapse this season. After a 3-0 start in Big Ten play — their best conference start in 41 years — the Huskers lost 13 of 16 the rest of the way. “There was no doubt that he was with me and supporting me,” Miles said. “I knew he would probably do something after the season in his own way.”
Penn State: Plays Thursday against No. 5 seed Michigan State, winner of a record five Big Ten conference tournament titles. Penn State beat the Spartans 72-63 on Jan. 7 at the Palestra in Philadelphia.
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