This Penn State team is indescribable. Coach DeChellis calls it a winning fiber. You could call it confidence, a moxie, a mentality, cockiness, fearlessness, resiliency, what have you. Whatever “it” is, it’s sure working and it’s a lot of fun to watch. Talor Battle had it yesterday after Jamelle had it against Iowa. These guys refuse to quit, they refuse to lose, and they’ve been putting on quite a show. I have a feeling this quote after the Minnesota blowout is going to be a big part of this special season.
“After the game we huddled up and we said we would not do this again, we’re not losing by 20 points,” Battle said. “For us to go out there [Sunday] and get embarrassed is not a testament to what we truly are.”
Battle and Cornley are just relentless competitors. They have the swagger or the chip on their shoulder that they carry with them on the court. They refuse to let people tell them what they can and can’t do. They’re out to prove everyone wrong, which they did yesterday (but not me!).
PSU got off to a quick 7-2 start, showing no signs of needing time to adjust to game speed again after the long layoff. But that didn’t last long. Of course, Northwestern had to go and beat MSU in their last home game, so Izzo had his troops ready to play some defense. They were pounding the boards, forcing PSU turnovers, got out in transition, and were basically about to run PSU out of the building. Until Talor Battle said hell no. MSU was on a 9-0 run and Battle had airballed (even if he got hit on the arm) his first three. He killed that mini-run with a contested three from the wing that silenced the Izzone…but only briefly. MSU went on another 8-0 run to extend their early lead to 29-16 with 6 minutes to go in the half. That’s when Battle took over. With Travis Walton, the senior guard who’s one of the best defenders in the league, all over him, Battle starting launching threes. After chasing down a long out of bounds pass in the backcourt, he ran straight back to the top of the key and launched it in rhythm within 6 seconds. After another in bounds on the next possesion, Battle drained an NBA range trey with Walton in his grill a mere 2 seconds after the clock started. Jamelle hit an open look, too and PSU was storming back to 29-25.
Another huge key to the first half was Cammeron Woodyard. Stanley Pringle got lazy on some plays on defense and picked up 3 fouls in the first half with 6 minutes to go. DeChellis put in Woodyard who logged 2 boards and hit a huge, contested three in those six minutes. He lives up to his nickname ‘Smooth’ on the court. He just looks so fluid in his motions. I still think DeChellis should be getting Woodyard and Babb into the mix more. Woodyard looks like another confident guy who’s got a chip on his shoulder. Maybe he’s trying to prove all those gurus wrong that said he was Fordham material, at best. His three came during PSU’s last flurry to end the half. After some back n forth action PSU was down 37-30 with 2 minutes to go. Battle chased down a blocked shot amd got a layup, then Woodyard hit his big 3 with 5 seconds to go on the shot clock. To end the remarkable first half comeback, Talor Battle hit an absurd 28 footer. After lulling the MSU defense to sleep a little bit while running clock, Battle acted like he was setting up a set when he knew he was pulling the trigger all along. He drilled it and somehow Penn State went into the half with a 38-37 lead. Battle had 18 first half points.
PSU started the second half strong with Pringle back. In fact, they made their first 8 shots of the half as the Big 3 was firing on all cylinders. PSU continued to shoot lights out, while curing their turnover woes and holding their own on the boards. Andrew Jones, especially, was a beast on the glass. He had a huge game as well for the Lions especially down the stretch. Battle was unstoppable, Cornley was doing work inside (and somehow picking up more technicals from Mr. Hightower), and Pringle was creating turnovers. They went on a 12-0 run to turn the game from 49-47 to 59-49. They extended the lead to 68-56 with 6 minutes remaining until PSU’s embarrassing free throw display nearly lost them the game. In a 20 minute period during the game, PSU turned a 29-16 deficit into a 68-56 lead…a 52-27 run. There’s no reason the other team should have a chance to tie the game if you go on a run like that. PSU earned this win, but until they can start closing out games, it’s not going to be pretty. How can you go 56% from the floor, 50% from 3, and 47% from the charity stripe? Unbelievable. At one stretch, PSU missed 7 of 8 straight foul shots. You’re not going to win too often throwing up bricks like that with a big lead. I mean, PSU deserved to win this game, but they damn near lost it at the foul line. Izzo started fouling at 4 minutes left in the game…that shows you the respect of our free throw game. Big props to Andrew Jones in the last minute for his 3 for 4 performance that sealed the win, but the rest of the team failed horrendously from the line. The officials failed too, but we can’t control that (how can you be bear-hugged by Suton, and then get called for traveling?).
Talor Battle finished with a career high 29 points (11-19, 6-12). He sure made a big case for BTPOY yesterday. Greg Kelser on the BTN was saying how Battle reminded him of UW great Devin Harris. And surprisingly, I don’t know if I could disagree with that statement. Battle is special and he’s starting something here at PSU. I can only imagine what would happen if his bro, Taran Buie came aboard.
Jamelle had a solid 16 point outing, but he missed a few bunnies there at the end that could’ve made the game a little less close. Apparently Ed Hightower wants to get him suspended, as he T’d Cornley up for the second time in 2 games. While the Iowa T was certainly deserved, yesterday’s T was travesty. As far as I could tell, there was no warning and Cornley wasn’t even saying anything to Ed. Apparently he told Roe that he couldn’t stop him after he scored a bucket and that now is technical-worthy. Jamelle has been the same as he’s been all his career. He’s animated, vocal, and a trash-talker. That’s just how he plays. Why is he suddenly getting hit with all these techs? Now he has to be careful, as his next T results in a one game suspension.
Great game, legendary performance from Battle, and now PSU has a nice, gleaming road scalp on their resume come March. Now they head to reeling Michigan on Thursday in another big game.