NEW YORK – Penn State coach Ed DeChellis met with his team a couple of hours before playing Baylor in the NIT title game and had only one request.
“Give me everything you have,” he said. “If it’s good enough, it’s good enough. If it’s not, it’s not. Just leave it all on the floor.”
The Nittany Lions certainly did, and it was plenty.
Jamelle Cornley scored 18 points and the scrappy Nittany Lions, chasing every loose ball and hustling for every rebound, outlasted the Bears 69-63 Thursday night to win only the second postseason tournament title in school history.
Talor Battle added 12 points, all in the second half, for the Nittany Lions (27-11), who were spurred on by raucous chants of “We are … Penn State,” led by none other than Joe Paterno, the 82-year-old football coach sitting about four rows behind the team’s bench.
“You don’t know what it’s going to be like when you go into it,” said Cornley, the tournament’s most valuable player. “The last time I cut down the nets was the state championship my freshman year of high school. To cut down some more nets in my last game is just an unbelievable feeling.”
The only other postseason tournament Penn State had won was the Atlantic 10 in 1991.
It was a physical game, and both teams spent most of the night scrambling for every ball in sight. Penn State guard Danny Morrissey was trying to corral a loose one near the scorer’s table with about 2 1/2 minutes to go and the Nittany Lions leading 57-48 when he slammed his head into the floor, laying motionless on the sideline for a few moments.
Trainers hurried over and tended to the senior, who had a cut above his lip but eventually walked off the floor on his own.
“We have tough kids. We’re going to go compete. That’s been our trademark all year,” DeChellis said. “That play typifies what our team has been like all year.”
The Bears trailed 62-50 after Stanley Pringle made a pair of free throws with less than 2 minutes left, but they did their best to rally.
Tweety Carter’s 3-pointer made it 62-55 with just more than a minute to go, and he made another with 16.8 seconds left to get within 68-63.
Baylor simply ran out of time.
Battle hit 1 of 2 foul shots, and Curtis Jerrells air-balled a 3-point attempt to set off a jubilant celebration in one end of Madison Square Garden.
LaceDarius Dunn scored 18 points to lead Baylor (24-15).