Nittany Lions Roar into NIT Championship Game With 67-59 Victory Over Notre Dame
March 31, 2009
New York, New York, March 31, 2009 - Penn State led by 19 points in each half before holding off a late Notre Dame rally to dispatch the Irish, 67-59, before a partisan Nittany Lion crowd of 11,352 in Madison Square Garden Tuesday as Penn State reached the final of the National Invitation Tournament for the second time in school history.
Penn State (26-11) shut down the Irish (21-15) early with tough defense and held Irish stars Luke Harangody and Kyle McAlarney to a combined 8-of-28 from the floor for the game to post a program record 26th win on the season and reach the NIT final for the first time since 1998. The Lions will play for the first national tournament championship in school history on Thursday when the take on the Baylor Bears (24-14) in a 7:00 p.m. tip live on ESPN.
Sophomores Andrew Jones and Talor Battle led the way for the Lions. Jones posted career highs of 16 points and 15 rebounds for his third career double-double and locked up Harangody early in the game causing the first-team All-Big Ten selection, who came in averaging 23.5 ppg and 11.8 rbg, to an 0-for-7 start from the floor. Battle led the Lions with 17 points and five assists and added five boards. Jamelle Cornley continued his physically dominating play in the paint posting 15 points and eight boards while shaking off a twisted ankle and taking Harangody out of the game in the second half. Stanley Pringle added 10 as Penn State improved to 16-3 on the year when Battle, Pringle and Cornley score double-digits.
Penn State improved to 3-1 all-time against the Irish and 21-9 all-time in NIT games. With his five assists on the night, Battle equaled the Penn State single-season record of 181 set by current assistant coach Dan Earl in 1995. Cornley's eight boards moved him into fifth all-time on the Penn State rebounding charts as he passed John Amaechi (745) and now has 749 career boards, just six short of equaling Geary Claxton (755) in fourth.
Penn State jumped on top of the Irish early in the first half smothering Notre Dame with solid defense and converting with nice passes and shooting on the other end. The Lions held Irish leading scorer Luke Harangody to 2-of-10 shooting as he missed his first seven from the floor. The Irish started 1-of-9 overall and shot just 22 percent for the half as Penn State held as much as a 19-point lead.
Battle led the Lion scoring 12 first half points and adding three assists as he appeared very comfortable returning to his home state of New York for the first time as a collegiate. Penn State shot 46 percent in the half and held a 24-21 rebounding edge.
A Battle three and lay-up put Penn State up 7-2. Jamelle Cornley converted his only bucket of the half for a 9-2 lead and the Lions extended to 11-2 on a Pringle reverse lay-up that forced a Notre Dame time-out with 14:31 to play.
A deep three from Danny Morrissey made it 14-4. The Irish trimmed the lead down to six before a Lion spurt pushed the margin to 15. A Pringle pull-up in transition followed by a Battle drive and finish in traffic put the Lions up 20-8 and forced another Notre Dame time-out with 7:20 to play.
Penn State went up 23-10 when Battle drove and finished an and-one lay-up with 4:40 to play. Battle drove and dished to Jones for a lay-up on the next possession and then completed another drive in traffic to give the Lions a 29-10 lead with under three minutes to play in the half.
The Irish would cut the lead to 13 at the half when Harangody finished in the lane, but Penn State led 31-18 and would go on to improve to 23-1 on the year when leading at the half. The Irish's 18-point out-put tied their season-low in a half.
The Irish cut the lead to 11 about five minutes into the second stanza, but Penn State responded with Cornley finishing over Harangody and Jones reaching his double-double with his 10th point in the lane to push the lead to 47-30.
Penn State led comfortably and rebuilt the lead back to 19 until the Irish strung together a 12-0 run to slice the margin to seven, 49-42, with 5:49 to play on a pair of Harangody free throws. Pringle broke the run for the Lions, but a Harangody three brought the Irish to within six, 51-45.
Pringle went to the line following a Notre Dame foul and missed the front end. Cornley was called for a push when the 260-pound Harangody flopped on the rebound and the Irish forward went to the other end and sank a pair to bring the Irish to within four, 51-47, with 4:16 to play. They would get no closer.
Cornley got a bucket in the paint and Jones made a pair at the line to push the lead back to eight. Luke Zeller made a three for the Irish, but Cornley came right back with a bucket off a Battle feed. Penn State scored the next four at the foul line and pushed its lead back to 11, 61-50, with 1:07 to play and the Nittany Lion faithful began to make preparations for Thursday nights final.
The student ticket sale for Thursday's Championship game begins at 8 a.m. for Nittany Lion basketball student season ticket holders and 9 a.m. for students who are not men's basketball season ticket holders.
The general public sale for the NIT Championship game will be conducted via phone from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on April 1 by calling 814-865-5555. Walk-up sales will be also accepted at the reception desk at 240 Bryce Jordan Center from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tickets are $30 each with a $2 processing fee on phone orders only. Tickets purchased via phone must be picked up at Madison Square Garden (Tower D) on gameday, April 2. Will call opens at 6 p.m. the day of the game. There is a limit of 10 tickets.
The student ticket sale will be held from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. on April 1 or until Penn State's student ticket allotment has sold out. Student sales are walk-up only at the Bryce Jordan Center Ticket Office. From 8 a.m.-9 a.m., only Nittany Lion basketball student season ticket holders will have the opportunity to purchase tickets to the NIT Championship game. Students who are not basketball student season ticket holders may buy tickets starting at 9 a.m.
All student tickets are $10 and are payable by cash or credit card only with a limit of one per student. Bus transportation will be made available for an additional $10 to those students purchasing NIT Championship game tickets. All students must have their bus ticket to board the bus on Thursday. Bus trip details will be available at the time of purchase.
Students who are out-of-town and wish to purchase a ticket must go directly to the box office at Madison Square Garden with a current Penn State student ID to purchase a ticket for $10.