By Jack Dougherty, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Tony Carr did all he could down the stretch, scoring each of the last five points for the Nittany Lions, but his late-game heroics weren't enough.
With less than a minute remaining and Penn State down by four, Carr knifed through the middle of the defense and finished a tough layup in traffic to cut Ohio State's lead to two, 69-67. After a Jae'Sean Tate turnover on the other end, it was Carr's turn again.
With the shot clock off, Penn State moved the ball swiftly around the outside ticking time off until only 10 seconds remained in the game. Receiving a pass from his former high school teammate Shep Garner on the left wing, he hoisted up a deep 3-pointer that hit nothing but cotton to put Penn State in front by one.
On the next possession, Tate redeemed the earlier turnover with a coast-to-coast run and left-handed game winner with three seconds left to seal the 71-70 win for the Buckeyes, as a hushed silence fell over the Bryce Jordan Center crowd.
"That final deciding play that we had on offense, Shep made the decision and made the play," Carr said. "I was just trying to be a good teammate and get open. It just means a whole lot to me to know that [my teammates] trust me."
While the lack of tallies in the win column don't necessarily reflect the quality of play in the last four games, Carr's teammates have put full faith in him to make plays in the waning minutes when the game is on the line.
Just in the last home game against Purdue, Carr scored 14 of the team's final 18 points to bring Penn State back and send the game to overtime. Still, Penn State did not emerge with the win.
In Penn State's last 10 games, Carr is averaging 17.5 points and 5.1 assists per game. The freshman has been visibly more confident with the ball as of late, especially with the pressure on at the end of the game.
"Kid's a confident kid and most importantly, he's a winner and he's learning how to lead. We have a special player on our hands for sure," head coach Pat Chambers said.
Carr's 21 points Tuesday night marked his third straight game with at least 20 points. He also chipped in five rebounds and four assists.
Garner also joined Carr with a 20-point game against the Buckeyes. Garner made five threes on a career-high 14 attempts from beyond the arc. Garner scored eight of the team's first 13 points to keep Penn State within striking distance early.
"I think trying to get him going early was really good," Chambers said. "Tony did a lot of that. He saw the ball go through the basket a few times."
Garner also started off just as hot in the second half with two threes in the team's first three possessions, serving as the catalyst in Penn State's 17-4 run coming out of halftime to grow the lead to nine.
"He looked like a different kid tonight," Chambers said. "He looked like he had some energy in his feet, he was ready to play, play with confidence. I think trying to get him going early was really good."
While taking fewer shots per game this year, Garner has shown flashes of just how effective he can be, especially from 3-point line. Garner is shooting 35% from deep and leads the team in minutes per game. His role as a captain on such a young team is taking precedence over his role as a scorer, and he's accepted it.
"I think we're playing great," Garner said. "I think teams make certain plays and we don't. That's what it comes down to. They are all learning experiences. We take every game as a learning experience win or lose."
Tuesday night's late heartbreaking loss to Ohio State was just another chapter of the close losses that have piled up all season long.
Penn State has now lost five games decided by four points or less this season, which doesn't include the triple overtime loss to Indiana.
With more time, experience and chemistry, those close losses can surely flip into wins. Add a few up and the season is an entirely different story.
"That's a good thing for this program," Chambers said. "That's a good
thing for the fans out there that these guys care this much. We have winners in
that locker room who are invested, who want to get better, and they want to see
this thing turn."