March 31, 2009
NEW YORK (AP)-- Talor Battle scored 17 points, Andrew Jones had career highs of 16 points and 15 rebounds, and the Nittany Lions hung on for dear life after squandering a big lead in a 67-59 victory over Notre Dame on Tuesday night in the NIT semifinals.
Jamelle Cornley added 15 points and Stanley Pringle had 10 for Penn State (26-11), which set a school record for wins in a season and will play Baylor for the championship Thursday night.
Luke Harangody, a second-team All-American, finished with 17 points to lead the Irish (21-15), who trailed 49-30 with 9 minutes left, but used a big run fueled almost entirely by their bruising junior forward to make a game of it.
Harangody got it started with a bucket inside with 8:17 to play, then hit a pair of free throws and drained a 3-pointer from the top of the key. By the time he added two more foul shots a few seconds later, the Irish somehow had closed the lead to 51-47 with just over 4 minutes to go.
Cornley, who separated his left shoulder two weeks ago and played with it heavily wrapped, scored a tough basket inside to finally stop Notre Dame's momentum. Jones added a pair of free throws, Cornley scored another basket inside and the Nittany Lions put the game away from the foul line in the closing minutes.
That the game even got to that point was a surprise.
Harangody missed his first seven shots and didn't score until there was 5:12 left in the first half. By then Penn State led 20-10 and several thousand white-clad Nittany Lions fans who traveled to Madison Square Garden in buses were on their feet at a deafening roar.
Penn State scored the next nine points when play resumed, building a 29-10 lead on Battle's transition layup with 3 minutes left in the first half. Even after Harangody scored on a scooping bucket just before the buzzer, the Nittany Lions had a comfortable 31-18 lead at intermission.
Harangody, who plans to decide in the coming weeks whether to declare for the NBA draft, was 2-for-10 in the first half. He finished 5-for-16 from the field, getting a pat on the chest and a few words from coach Mike Brey when he left the game for good with about 40 seconds to go.
The Irish shot 8-for-35 from the field during their moribund first half; hit only two 3-pointers in the first 20 minutes after easily setting the school record for 3s in a season; and couldn't stop the Nittany Lions' quick guards from penetrating the middle of the Irish defense.