|Picture from the Centre Daily Times|
It's over. Thirteen games of heartbreaking loss after heartbreaking loss. The Lions finally pulled one out. It took a complete team effort, perhaps the best team effort of the season. Mike Walker started for the injured Ben Luber and had a career game with 17 points. Mooch threw down 12 points and hauled in seven rebounds. Claxton had his usual 18 points and five rebounds. But the star of the night was the inspirational Jamelle Cornley.
After suffering a hip pointer and sitting out most of practice this week, nobody was sure if he was even going to play until game time. He was in a lot of pain, but being the competitor he is, you would have had to amputate a leg before he would have sat out this game. He played 39 minutes and put in a monster game with 20 points, 13 rebounds, and four assists. At one point he completely took over the game and put the team on his back. I'll let the Centre Daily Times tell you about it.
But that's when Cornley, who had struggled to a six-point first half, took over the game.
After an attempted alley-oop pass to the Hawkeyes' Tyler Smith (14 points) bounced off the rim, Jackson lobbed mid-court pass just over the outstretched arm of Haluska to a sprinting Cornley, who grabbed it and slammed it home for the first of eight consecutive points. Then it was a baby hook, then a steal and a coast-to-coast layup, then a putback to put Penn State within one, 67-66, with 3:54 left. Mike Walker, who scored a season-high 17 points, hit a 3-pointer 28 seconds later to put Penn State back on top, 69-67, and the Nittany Lions wouldn't trail again.
Though our postseason hopes went out the window a month or two ago, this win is still huge. A 16 game losing streak going into the off season would have hovered like a dark cloud over the program the entire summer. This win gives a small amount of hope to the players, coaches, and fans that this team can do some things in the Big Ten.
Winning does a lot toward changing attitudes and perceptions. You have to believe you can win before you can believe you will win. For the past month this team didn't believe they could win. Now they know they can compete and win. Who knows. Maybe this game will be a spark similar to the one the football team experienced against Indiana in 2004 that propelled them into the special season of 2005. We can only hope.
Great job, Lions.