The Penn State Nitanny Lions certainly make the most of their rare appearances in the National Invitation Tournament.
The Nitanny Lions routed Utah, 82-66 Thursday night in Madison Square Garden to win the NIT championship. The Lions also won the tournament championship in their last appearance, in 2009.
The two teams went back and forth in the first half, looking remarkably equal, although Penn State went to the locker room with a 39-34 lead. The Utes weren't helped when 6-10 senior David Collette, the team's second-leading scorer, went out in the second period after taking a blow to his head. He returned midway through the third.
But Penn State turned it on in the second half behind its two leading scorers, sophomores Tony Carr and Lamar Stevens. The Nitanny Lions (26-13) led by 15 after three quarters, and the only drama left at that point seemed to be whether or not Carr would get only the second triple-double in Nitanny Lions history.
He fell just short, but the 6-5 guard finished with 15 points, 14 assists and nine rebounds. Stevens, a 6-8 forward, scored 28 points on 11-of-15 shooting and was named MVP of the NIT. Junior guard Josh Reaves chipped in 18.
Once again, the Nitanny Lions, who hit 11 3-pointers in their semifinal win over Mississippi State, were on target from long range, hitting 9 of 21 behind the arc.
Coming off a 15-18 season a year ago, Nitanny Lions coach Pat Chambers might be able to look back at the program's first 20-win season since 2009 as a turning point.
Utah finishes the season 23-12, the fifth-straight 20-win season for coach Larry Krystkowiak's team. Junior guard Sedrick Barefield led the Utes with 22 points, while senior guard Justin Bibbins finished his career with 15 points.