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March 15, 2009
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.; March 15, 2009 - Penn State will make its second National Invitation Tournament appearance under coach Ed DeChellis and first since 2006 when the Nittany Lions (22-11; 10-8 Big Ten) take on George Mason (22-10) in first round action Tuesday at the Bryce Jordan Center in the 72nd NIT. Penn State earned a No. 2 seed in the 32-team tournament. George Mason is a No. 7 seed. The game will tip off at 8:00 p.m. on the ESPNU.
"We had a tremendous season and accomplished a lot of firsts for the program," DeChellis said, "We are happy for the opportunity to keep playing. It looks like a tremendous field with a lot of traditional powers and I'm happy our seniors, who have worked so hard this year, have a chance to keep playing and maybe get us to Madison Square Garden where they have never played before."
Penn State, which finished tied for fourth in the Big Ten and has posted the second-most wins in school history, owns a 17-9 record in nine previous NIT appearances reaching the semifinals in Madison Square Garden on four occasions and finishing as the NIT runner-up in 1998. The Nittany Lions lost a first round NIT game at home to Rutgers, 76-71, in their last post-season appearance in 2006. The Lions have a 5-4 record in NIT first round games and last reached the NIT semifinals in 2000.
Ohio State won the 2008 NIT downing Massachusetts, 92-85, in the final. They were joined by Mississippi and Florida in the semi-finals in New York, City. Florida is the No. 1 seed in Penn State's bracket and is joined by Auburn, Creighton and San Diego State as No. 1 seeds in the 2009 NIT. The winner of Penn State's Tuesday game will face the winner of a Tuesday night match-up between Niagara (26-8) and Rhode Island (22-10).
Other notable teams in the 2009 NIT include Kentucky, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, South Carolina, Georgetown, Northwestern, Kansas State, Baylor, Nebraska, UNLV, Miami, Fla., Davidson and St. Mary's.
Penn State has won five of its last eight games, four of those against RPI Top 50 teams and two on the road. The Nittany Lion have four wins against Top 25 teams in the season, including at No. 9 Michigan State and at No. 16 Illinois. DeChellis was named the Big Ten's Coach-of-the-Year by the media and Talor Battle was named a first-team All-Big Ten selection after leading the conference in scoring with 17.3 ppg.
George Mason went 13-5 in the Colonial Athletic Conference to earn the No. 2 seed in the CAA Tournament. They fell to Virginia Commonwealth (VCU) in the final, 71-50. Mason has three players that average in double figures led by 6-4, sophomore guard Cam Long who averages 11.6 ppg and has 43 threes on 39 percent shooting from the arc. Senior guard John Vaughan (6-3) and posts 10.9 ppg and 4.6 rpg. Darryl Monroe, a 6-7 forward, averages 10.6 ppg and 7.8 rpg. Vaughan and Monroe were named second-team All-CAA. Mason has three players with more than 40 threes on the year and is holding opponents to 60.1 ppg. Mason lost to Creighton, 76-63, on Feb. 21, and fell to NCAA Tournament team Dayton, 66-62, on Dec. 30. Mason coach Jim Larranaga led the Patriots to a Cinderella run to the 2006 NCAA Final Four.
They share two common opponents with Penn State as Mason downed William and Mary, 61-57, and Towson, 56-48. Penn State beat William and Mary in its season opener, 65-51, and Towson in the Philly Hoop Group Classic at the Palestra, 78-54.
Second round NIT games will be played March 19-23 and the quarterfinals March 24-25, both at home court sites. The semifinals will be played on Tuesday, March 31 and the final game on Thursday, April 2, both at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Tickets for Penn State's appearance in the NIT first round home game will go on sale Monday from 8:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. at www.GoPSUsports.com. NIT tickets also can be purchased via phone at 814-865-5555. Tickets with be $15 for adults and $5 for students and youth.
Information on student tickets for the NIT will be available on Monday at GoPSUsports.com.
In addition, Penn State fans have the opportunity to put a $25 non-refundable deposit down on lower level season tickets for the 2009-10 season beginning Monday at 10 a.m. Fans can call 814-867-2557 weekdays from 10 a.m-5 p.m.