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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State men's basketball saw some much-needed toughness on display Friday evening. In its first overtime game of the season, sophomore Tony Carr had nine of Penn State's 11 points in extra time, including a deciding jumper to guide the Nittany Lions a 76-74 win against Nebraska.
On what would be considered an off night for Carr, he finished with 17 points and eight assists. Carr's heroics though, came at perhaps just the right time, as he struggled for most of the evening before nailing his first two-point shot from the field with fewer than two minutes remaining in overtime.
Seated in the media room postgame after recording his 100th win at the helm of the program, it was his team's ability to breakthrough and finish that Penn State head coach Patrick Chambers led off with.
"We were talking about toughness, getting over this hump or breaking through and being physical," Chambers said. "I feel Nebraska is one of the toughest teams in this league. One of the more physical teams in this league, and I felt like we were a little bit tougher today."
Penn State had Nebraska right where it needed at halftime, entering the locker room leading 33-24, holding the Huskers below 30 percent shooting from both the field and the 3-point line.
With a new starting lineup featuring true freshman Jamari Wheeler, things were seemingly sailing along smoothly.
"It's great to have him out there starting with us now," Carr said reflecting on Wheeler's performance. "He makes everybody better, mainly me. Helping me get easier shots, getting me off the ball. His changing of the tempo of the game is great for everybody."
Trailing only by one in the opening half, 15-14, sophomore Lamar Stevens connected on a triple before Wheeler stripped the ball for a steal to set Stevens up for a breakaway slam in between a Husker free throw to spark a 14-8 stretch that carried the Nittany Lions to halftime.
"I feel like when Lamar has three-point shot's falling, he is unstoppable because he's bigger and stronger than most guards are supposed to be," Carr said. "When his threes are falling, it's kind of like pick your poison."
Stevens closed out yet another consistent performance, totaling 26 points and seven rebounds for his third consecutive 20-plus scoring outing.
Watkins was equally as consistent, scoring 20 points and grabbing 15 boards for his fourth straight double-double. Watkins is the first Nittany Lion since Geary Claxton in 2007-08 to record four consecutive double-doubles (Lehigh, 12/31/07, Northwestern, 1/2/08, Illinois, 1/6/08, Minnesota, 1/12/08).
With roughly six minutes remaining in regulation and Penn State up by nine, 59-50, Nebraska moved to a one-three-one, opening up on a 10-2 scoring streak across the next three minutes to arrive within one.
Mike Watkins answered with a pair of free throws but Nebraska went 3-for-4 from the charity stripe to tie the score at 63-63. Penn State couldn't pull ahead for good as a late Husker jumper forced overtime.
"We have to give Tim [Miles] credit," Chambers said. "He is a really good coach. That took a lot of guts, with six minutes to go that is not your staple defense and he did it for the next six and five for the next eleven or twelve minutes."
Cue Carr in the overtime period, as his coaches and teammates continued to give him the confidence to keep going for it.
"When you're telling a kid that, he tends not to think about what's happening as a negative, he tends to think, alright, these guys really support me, I'm going to go get the next one," Chambers said. "He hits a big three, he hits a couple of floaters, it's big time."
It's all part of the game for Carr, who noted that even though is last game winner might not have gone in, it's this one that matters.
"There's going to be nights like that when your shot isn't falling and defense is keying on you," Carr said. "You just have to keep attacking and keep taking those shots. I've been working so hard, and I'm going to keep taking them as the season goes on."