LAS VEGAS (AP) — Brandon Taylor wanted to make up for the mistake he made against Colorado Tuesday night that put Penn State out of the running for the Las Vegas Classic title.
The senior took a game-changing second-half technical in the 71-70 loss.
Taylor made good on his promise in Wednesday night's consolation game, scoring a career-high 29 points to lead the Nittany Lions to a 75-69 win over Kent State.
"I figured I'd do something for my team with my mistakes in that game," said Taylor, whose technical started an 8-0 Colorado run. "Even if it didn't happen, I had to come and do something for my team and give my team a boost."
Taylor, who had two steals, was 12 of 21 from the field as the Nittany Lions (9-4) split their two Las Vegas games in their first trip out West in 14 years.
"I was real proud of his leadership tonight," Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said. "Brandon Taylor did it all tonight. Brandon led, he scored, he orchestrated everybody out there. He told everyone where to be."
Davis Zemgulis added 11 points and Josh Reaves had 10 for the Nittany Lions.
"I took the starters into a room last night and told them how big of a game it was," Chambers said. "I thought it was a pivotal game for us moving forward into the Big 10 (Conference) portion of our schedule starting. It's always difficult when you play a good team like Colorado and come back and played inspired the next night."
Jimmy Hall led Kent State (7-4) with 15 points and eight rebounds, while Kellon Thomas had 12 points.
Trailing by five at halftime, the Golden Flashes rallied to tie it twice, then took the lead on a 3-pointer by Chris Ortiz, who scored nine points in a 9-2 run, for a 57-51 Kent State advantage.
Penn State scored the next six, and took the lead 61-59 and stayed ahead for good on Reaves' emphatic putback dunk with 4:26 left.
Up 69-66 with 30 seconds left, Taylor made a layup, and Reaves got a steal and a dunk to put the game away for the Nittany Lions.
"I don't think any of us played to our abilities," said Kent State coach Rob Senderoff, whose team lost both Las Vegas games, including to No. 18 SMU Tuesday. "We have to learn from this and that's what is important to us as we get into conference play. If we learn from this, this will be a valuable trip. If not, it will be a long season."
The Golden Flashes scored the game's first seven points for their largest lead of the half. The Nittany Lions eventually tied it at 31, and later at 35. Penn State took its first lead, 38-37, on Taylor's fall-away 3-pointer from the right corner with 1:50 left in the half. Taylor closed out the half with another fall-away jumper inside the left arc with six seconds left and Penn State led 42-37 at halftime.
Penn State shot 29 of 59 from the field (49 percent), and outrebounded Kent State 40-29.
Even though the teams are separated by about 200 miles, this was their first meeting since 2000 during the NIT. The Nittany Lions won that game and reached that tournament's final four. Penn State now leads the series 13-3.
ON TO MARYLAND
The road doesn't get any easier for Penn State. They play at No. 4 Maryland next Wednesday to open Big 10 Conference play, but Chambers said he will first concentrate on Christmas before taking on the Terrapins.
"I'm going to think about Santa and my kids," Chambers said. "Maryland is one of the best teams in the country."
Taylor also was also in the holiday spirit after Wednesday's game.
"That's a great team — a top-five team," he said. "We're just going to take a few days off with families and come back ready to play them."
Penn State is at Maryland next Wednesday.
Kent State plays at North Carolina A&T next Wednesday.
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