For the second year in a row Penn State held up their end of the bargain and defeated their ACC opponent in the annual ACC-Big Ten Challenge. And for the 52nd year in a row or however long they've been playing this thing the rest of the Big Ten got bitch slapped. It's just like bowl season only indoors.
But it wasn't easy for the Nittany Lions. Georgia Tech's big men gave them more than they could handle and then some. Gani Lawal did whatever he wanted to do inside scoring 34 points on 15-of-20 shooting. Most of his points came on easy dunks and layups after casually tossing Andrew Jones aside or just leaving him standing flatfooted after spinning around him.
To compound the problems with the interior defense, Penn State couldn't buy a free throw down the stretch hitting just two of their final seven attempts in the final minutes. Even David Jackson, our most reliable free throw shooter, clanked the front end of a one-and-one twice. A seven point lead with just over a minute to go was erased to a two point lead with Jamelle Cornley on the line and five seconds to go in the game. If he would have made those shots, or even just one of them, Penn State could have sealed the win. But he missed both allowing Georgia Tech a desperation shot to win the game. In a way it may have been a blessing that he missed the second one. Tech had used all of their timeouts and had to collect the long rebound before driving the court to take the shot. Had Cornley made the shot they would have had a chance at a long inbound pass, so that was good.
But with so many obstacles to overcome, Penn State pulled out the win with their fantastic guard play. Battle started slow but rallied late scoring 12 of his 18 points in the second half. In the first half he was active in dishing out assists to his open teammates. But the real star of the night was Stanley Pringle scoring 22 points to go with his three rebounds and four steals. Danny Morrissey also made a major contribution off the bench. He sparked a second half run with two three point shots and finished with 13 points in the game.
This was a great win for Ed DeChellis and Penn State. A 3-1 road trip was exactly what this team needed to boost their confidence. To go into a hostile environment in the ACC and pull out a gritty win proves we can play with anyone even when part of our game is off.
Next up we play Temple back at the Jordan Center on Saturday (6 PM on the Big Ten Network). The rest of the non-conference schedule looks pretty easy barring any Stoney Brook embarassments. So Penn State needs to focus all their energy on this game as it could have huge RPI implications down the road.