Lamar Stevens, Tony Carr Lead Penn State to 2018 NIT Championship over Utah

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistMarch 30, 2018

Penn State guard Tony Carr reacts after hitting a 3-point shot against Utah during the second quarter of an NCAA college basketball game for the NIT championship Thursday, March 29, 2018, in New York. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
Julie Jacobson/Associated Press

Few teams in men's college basketball get to end their year with a win, but Penn State is on that list after bringing home the 2018 National Invitation Tournament title.

A near-triple-double from Tony Carr helped the squad earn an 82-66 victory over Utah in Thursday's championship game in New York's Madison Square Garden.

Teammate Lamar Stevens scored 28 points, but Carr had one of his best all-around efforts with 15 points, 14 assists and nine rebounds to lift the Nittany Lions.

The sophomore is sometimes inconsistent with his shooting and struggled in this one while going 5-of-16 from the field. However, he didn't let that bother him as he contributed in other ways.

His passing ability helped the team shoot 55.2 percent, led by Stevens' 11-of-15 effort. Josh Reaves also had a big night with 18 points and six rebounds.

Dana O'Neil of The Athletic praised Penn State's play down the stretch:

Ken Pomeroy discussed the team's upside for next year:

Neither squad was on the NCAA tournament bubble on Selection Sunday despite strong seasons, but they both played well in the NIT, earning four straight wins to get to this point. 

Sedrick Barefield was a big part of Utah's success in the early going, scoring 11 of his team's initial 20 first-quarter points to take a quick lead. Bill Riley of ESPN700 described the start's importance:

Barefield finished with 22 points, picking up the slack for senior David Collette, who was in and out of the lineup with a neck injury. 

However, Penn State used a 10-0 run to regain control, and the balanced offensive effort helped the team get out to a 39-34 halftime lead. This one-sided play continued in the second half, with the Nittany Lions taking over in the third quarter and going up by as many as 20 points in the fourth.

Josh Furlong of KSL summed up the game in the final quarter:

The Nittany Lions had little problem holding on for a 16-point victory.

The NIT doesn't always guarantee future success, but TCU earned a No. 6 seed in the NCAA tournament this season after winning the NIT in 2017. Penn State will try to replicate this success in 2018-19 after a strong finish.

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