It seemed like it was meant to be. Penn State had come charging back from a 17 point second half deficit. Jamelle Cornley was killing the Spartans inside. Talor Battle was killing them from the outside when he wasn't dishing the ball to his teammates. The 10,270 people in the stands were screaming like their hair was on fire. With 27 seconds to go the Nittany Lions found themselves just down by two with the ball and the #7 team in the country leaning on the ropes. Talor Battle surveyed the defense and thought he saw an opening. He tried to split between two defenders. Goran Suton stuck his foot out and tripped him. Battle went down. The ref choked on his whistle. The Spartans picked up the loose ball and the game was essentially over.
It was a valiant effort by the Nittany Lions against a team that was much deeper and more athletic. Talor Battle and Jamelle Cornley were sensational in the second half. Cornley poured in 15 of his career high 26 points while Battle put away 12.
Those of you who claim Ed DeChellis can't coach should go back and watch last nights game again. In the second half Ed was switching up the defense on every other possession. They went to the 2-3 zone. Then the 1-3-1 zone. Then the 1-1-3 zone. Then back to the 2-3. Michigan State really struggled to figure out the different zone looks. It slowed them down and allowed Penn State to claw their way back into the game. I really believe Ed is a good coach. He just needs more athletes.
As I mentioned, the crowd of 10,270 was amazing to see after the poor attendance in the Purdue game last week. Kudos to all the fans who braved the cold and the snow to go out and support the team.
Chris Babb looks like he's starting to get it. He only played six minutes, but in that short time he scored two crucial three pointers. He also grabbed a rebound, blocked two shots and got a steal. Hopefully he'll be able to step up and give Pringle and Battle a rest once in a while.
Andrew Ott looked the best he's been since putting on the Blue and White. In ten minutes of play he scored four points, three rebounds (two offensive), an assist and a steal. But he also racked up a quick three fouls.
Penn State was outrebounded 41-24. Michigan State grabbed a dominating 17 offensive rebounds. Our lack of depth in the front court is really starting to show now that we're in the heart of the Big Ten season.
Stanley Pringle had his second straight off game. He only scored 8 points on 2-of-11 shooting. If he could have scored his usual 15 points, who knows? He's got to get out of his funk.
Stanley Pringle, Jamelle Cornley, and Talor Battle were all seen limping off the court at some point last night. The physicality of Big Ten basketball is starting to take its toll on this team, and the lack of depth is only going to become more apparent from here on.
I hate to keep harping on the kid, but David Jackson is a complete liability. He only saw six mintues of play last night to close out the first half. He was completely ineffective against covering his man through the screen and Michigan State went on a 15-2 run during that stretch to close out the half. He had one scoring chance where he was standing all alone under the basket, and he traveled. Like I said, I really hate to talk down on college kids, but he shouldn't see the floor until garbage time for the rest of the season. And he better hit the gym and training table hard this summer. He looks scrawny against his competition and needs to put on 25 or 30 pounds.
What was up with the refs not calling the trip on Suton at the end of the game? It seemed like Battle couldn't look at a guy funny without drawing a foul all night and he eventually fouled out of the game. How you don't call a foul on that play is beyond me.
The Nittany Lions get a chance to regroup with a winable road game against Indiana on Saturday night (6 PM ET). Then they return home for two winable games against Michigan and Iowa. Sitting at 13-5 you hate to say it's desperation time, but these are three must-win games if Penn State hopes to make the post season.