Penn State got a career-high 29 points from senior forward Brandon Taylor and rallied from deficits in both halves to top Kent State 75-69 and salvage a split in the Las Vegas Classic Wednesday night.
The Nittany Lions wrapped up their non-conference schedule at 9-4 heading into the Big Ten opener at No. 4 Maryland Dec. 30. The Golden Flashes fell to 7-4.
Penn State, which was edged by Colorado (71-70) in Tuesday’s tournament opener in Vegas, trailed by as many as 10 in the first half and six in the second half vs. KSU before storming back each time.
Taylor had 19 in the first half and then seven more in the final four minutes of the game to key both rallies.
The Lions also got double figures from a pair of freshmen, and both of them hit big buckets.
The game was tied 59-59 with four and a half minutes remaining when PSU guard Shep Garner missed a 3-pointer. Rookie guard Josh Reaves flew down the lane for a follow dunk that gave the Lions a 61-59 lead they would never relinquish.
With just under a minute left and State up 67-63, Reaves missed a layup. Fellow freshman Davis Zemgulis tipped it in for a six-point lead.
Zemgulis had a career-high 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting to go along with four rebounds. Reaves had 10 points, six rebounds, three steals and two blocks.
Both performances were important. Garner entered the game as PSU’s leading scorer, and finished with 26 vs. Colorado. But he never found his stroke Wednesday, missing all but one of his eight shots to finish with a season-low two points.
Forward Jimmy Hall led KSU with 15 points. But he scored the first seven points of the game on a 3-pointer and 4-of-4 shooting from the line before being held in check for the final 37-plus.