This NIT thing isn’t so bad after all. While the rest of the country understandably is paying no mind to the ‘Not Important Tournament’, PSU appears to be utilizing the underrated event as a springboard into next season.  But don’t get it twisted, this team also wants to win the whole damn thing. PSU came out and took it to URI early and often. Whenever the Rams tried to make a run, PSU responded in a wire-to-wire 83-72 victory.

However, with ‘the rock of this team’, Jamelle Cornley, sitting on the bench in street clothes, PSU had a rare opportunity to get some run together without their senior star. Many PSU fans have had doubts about whether next year’s team can be as good as or better then this year’s. I was one of those fans. After all, two core members of the Big Three will not be returning. Where are the points going to come from? But if the Rhode Island game was any indication, those doubts could turn into optimism. Player bullets below:

  • Andrew Jones – I’m not going to lie, I didn’t think Jones played that well of a game. I felt like he left a lot of points out there on the floor. So when he fouled out with 3 minutes to go and got an arousing standing ovation, I knew I must’ve missed something. When I checked the box score, lo and behold Jones is sitting there with his second career double-double (14 points, 10 boards).  The fact that he had that big of an impact and I was disappointed is even more encouraging to me. I don’t think Jones has come close to reaching his potential, but he’s certainly taken a big step forward this year. He’s got the work ethic and desire, seems like a bright guy, and has a post-coach that appears to be having a significant impact. (Thank you, Coach Preston). I don’t see why Jones can’t score 10+ PPG and pull down 7+ RPG next year.
  • Chris Babb – Whoa, Nellie. Can this guy light it up in a hurry or what? Babb’s shot, when he’s confident, is lethal. Not only does he have a big frame at 6’5″ 215 lb, but the release point on his jumper (over his head) makes it nearly unblockable.  And he’s got such a quick release. It’s seriously one of the prettiest jumpers I’ve ever seen.  Oh, and he can shoot it from anywhere on the court. He’s also shown an ability to drive to the hoop. Once he can drive competently with regularity, his whole offensive game will open up. Looking forward to watching Babb play next year.
  • Jeff Brooks – I’d love to know what goes through Brooks’ head. He’s so fragile mentally, it’s really frustrating. But he’ll always have the lenky, springy 6’8” frame that will keep PSU fans’ expectations high. Whenever Brooks makes a few shots, he thinks he’s Michael Jordan. Whenever he misses a few, he thinks the world’s going to end. However, if Brooks ever gets his act together, he can be really good. He scored 6 points, grabbed 5 boards, and had 3 assists against the Rams. Jeff will be a junior next year. If he wants to have a good career here, he better get serious and start working harder.
  • David Jackson – How he pissed away most of his sophomore year, I will never know. He averaged 5.8 PPG and 3.6 RPG in 22.8 MPG as a redshirt freshman last year. After the first 7 games of the year, it looked like he was going to step forward this year. He averaged 27.7 MPG in those 7 games and put up 8.9 PPG and 4.4 RPG. Then he just completely sucked it up the next 3 months. You usually hear about off the court problems when young guys go through big slumps like that but I never heard a peep about his struggles. So the question is, was it really a ‘slump’ or is that all DJ’s ever going to be? We’ll have to wait next year to find out but he’s turning it on again here at the end of the year. In his last 4 games, he’s averaging 8.3 PPG and 4.5 RPG again. He had 7 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals against Rhode Island.

Jeff Rice wrote a great article addressing the role players today.

A few other points about the Rhode Island game.

  • Battle was on fire early, but he’s clearly worn out. In our usual ‘run out the shot’ clock sets, Battle had nothing in the 2nd half when he was depended upon to bail us out. Honestly, I didn’t know why we didn’t go to Pringle in those situations. Battle finished with 16 points (14 in the first half), 4 boards, and 5 assists. He suffered a hip pointer that kept him out of the game the last 3 minutes, but he’s expected to play the next game.
  • I used to think Pringle shot too many dumb shots. I now think he doesn’t shoot enough sometimes. He could pretty much score whenever he wanted to as he finished with 19 points on 11 shots.  There were times where he was out on the floor with Ott, Jackson, Morrissey, and Babb. All I could think was Pringle needs to take over here. I wish he would have.
  • PSU was up 6 points, 72-66 with 2:23 left. Battle was hurt, Cornley wasn’t playing, and Andrew Jones had fouled out. That’s 3 starters that were out right then. And PSU won by 11. So that’s encouraging
  • Jimmy Baron’s a hell of a shooter. But URI wasn’t that good. All I could think was how did we lose to these guys the first time? They were very undisciplined.

So the Nittany Lions are one game away from the semi-finals at Madison Square Garden. Florida whooped up on Miami last night so the next game will be Tuesday at 9 PM in Gainesville. A homecoming of sorts for former Florida assistant coach Lewis Preston. It should be a great game and a tough test on the road for the young Lions. Jamelle’s status is still unknown.


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