ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — NC State shot 60 percent from the field for the game and used an 12-0 run over a four-minute stretch in the second half to pull to an 89-78 win over Penn State in the Boardwalk Classic Saturday afternoon. Freshman guard Rasir Bolton had his third career outing with 20 or more points with a game-high 25, including 18 in the second period.
Bolton hit back-to-back free throws twice in 60 seconds to keep PSU within four at 66-62 2H, 8:17) and 68-64 (2H, 7:35), but NC State (9-1) went 3-3 from the field and Nittany Lions 0-6 in the same period. The Wolfpack effort was buoyed with five more points from seven trips to the free throw line as well.
“We go on these little dry spells and that’s what happens at the end of the game there, we had a spell and they extended their lead, they made shots, they made plays, that’s what really won the game, during that stretch,” said Nittany Lion basketball coach Patrick Chambers. “As long as we continue to get better, as long as we stay the course. I still believe, I believe in this team. I believe we have a really talented team and that will show as we progress here.”
The Wolfpack followed 53.1 percent shooting in the first half with a blistering 17-24 from the field for 70 percent in the second half and had a 46-34 points-in-the-paint and 40-29 rebound advantage for the game.
After the second-half run, NC State withstood Penn State’s late rally as the Nittany Lions battled back from a 16-point deficit to cut the lead to nine.
Even with Stevens on the bench, saddled with foul trouble with three in the first half and a quick fourth early in the second half, Penn State grabbed a one-point lead 56-55 with just under 13 minutes to play. Bolton hit a trey and Wheeler converted a layup and free throw after pulling down the defensive rebound, but the Wolfpack’s Markell Johnson connected on a 3-pointer to put NC State back up by two, 58-56.
Stevens, who scored the first three baskets for the Nittany Lions after halftime, re-entered the game with 9:21 left to play and grabbed his 500th career rebound about two minutes later.
In the first half, Penn State jumped out to a five-point lead, 7-2, and was up 9-5, but baskets by four different NC State players during a scoring drought for the Nittany Lions put NC State up by four, 13-9.
Penn State (5-5) was down by seven with 5:54 in the first half, but senior guard Josh Reaves would score nine of the Nittany Lions’ 14 points to help trim the deficit to one, 34-33. The Wolfpack took a 40-37 lead into the locker room.
Four Nittany Lions finished the night in double figures with Bolton’s 25, senior guard Josh Reaves’ 15, 11 from Lamar Stevens and 10 from Mike Watkins.
Braxton Beverly had 18 points to lead five NC State players with double figures while Wyatt Walker had a game-best eight rebounds.
The Nittany Lions head to Duquesne Wednesday, Dec. 19 for the second of their three-straight games away from home and the final game on the road at Alabama (Dec. 21).
Penn State returns to the BJC on Saturday, Dec. 29 with its final nonconference contest of the season vs. UMBC. Tip time is 1 p.m. For information or to purchase Penn State men’s single-game tickets, visit GoPSUsports.com/mbbsinglegametix or call 1-800-NITTANY, weekdays from 8 a.m.-5 p.m.