Posts tagged ‘Jamelle Cornley’
The Penn State men’s basketball team held its annual media day Monday afternoon, suiting up for interviews and pictures before running through an open practice. As you’d expect, the mood was good: These preseason gatherings tend to be optimistic, with players and coaches focused on the season’s potential and a schedule loaded with winnable games. But even by those standards, these Nittany Lions seem like an especially positive and confident bunch. That’s encouraging, and perhaps a little surprising.
Last season, (more…)
If you weren’t there, I hope you watched the game on TV, or at least saw the highlights (ESPN has a terrific game wrap-up here). If you were at Madison Square Garden on Thursday, you know what a great night it was. In front of what might as well have been a home crowd, Penn State won its first ever postseason championship, beating Baylor 69-63 for the National Invitational Tournament title.
I was not aboard one of the 35 or 36 buses that left State College on Thursday afternoon, but I did make the trip by car. It was well worth it, particularly since I was able to blur the fan/credentialed-media line during the game. In the first half, I sat in my baseline press seat and tried to act like a professional (read: no cheering). Here’s the view from my courtside perch; all those white t-shirts should give you an idea of the terrific fan support. (click for larger view)
At halftime, I hooked up with some friends in the crowd, tucked my credential in my shirt pocket and switched to fan status — I’m not taking sole credit for Penn State turning a four-point halftime deficit into a six-point win, but, you know…
I did keep the camera handy, though — novice photographer that I am, the quality of some of these is dodgy, but you get the idea. Here’s the view from our seats:
Another guy who I assume didn’t take the bus to Manhattan was native New Yorker Joe Paterno. Just as he did during Tuesday’s semifinal, JoePa sat a few rows behind the Penn State bench. He was also the game’s biggest halftime attraction, being mobbed by well-wishers and folks with cameras during the intermission.
The student support was the real story in the stands. Official attendance for Thursday’s final was 10,254, close to 9,000 of whom were cheering on the Nittany Lions. The students who made the trip — and most of them made two SC-to-NY roundtrips in the space of 48 hours — were their usual rowdy selves. Among the most loyal members of Nittany Nation are a bunch of the Paternoville regulars I met while reporting the cover story for our Jan/Feb issue. I saw a few of them Thursday:
I’ve been to hundreds of games at the Garden (in my previous life as an editor at Slam Magazine, it was part of the job), and I don’t ever remember the stands shaking. But last night, when the students bounced to “Zombie Nation,” I found myself worrying about structural integrity. Very cool.
It’s probably impossible to overstate how cool it was to see Jamelle Cornley end his Penn State career with a title. The burly but undersized power forward led the Nittany Lions all season (and, really, throughout much of his career) with his toughness and intensity. After finishing with a game-high 18 points and seven rebounds, he was the obvious and thoroughly deserving choice for tournament MVP:
A couple more low-quality shots of ’Mel, worth including (I thought) to give a sense of just how happy everyone was to see him go out on such a high note. He’ll be missed next season.
Postgame, somebody handed Joe an NIT Champs t-shirts, which he put on over his sports coat. (Bonus points if you can ID the bearded gentleman to Paterno’s left — not too many bonus points, though. This one should be easy.)
Pretty close behind Cornley on the people-to-be-happy-for list is head coach Ed DeChellis ’82 Edu. No one knows Penn State’s success-starved hoops history better than Ed — Sports Illustrated recently called his job the toughest in the Big Ten — and while it’s not the NCAA Tournament glory he and his players were hoping for, it was a huge moment nonetheless. Postgame, he looked happy, tired, and proud.
And just when Ed thought his night couldn’t get any better: Taran Buie, the younger brother of star sophomore Talor Battle and one of the top high school juniors in the nation, put the cherry on top Thursday night when he verbally committed to attend Penn State beginning in 2010. Rumor has it that Buie (read more about him here) joined his big brother and their mom on the team bus after the game and announced his plans to the team.
Even in New York City, the stories don’t get much better than that.
Ryan Jones, senior editor
Annemarie Mountz ’84 and Andy Colwell in Penn State’s Department of Public Information got some good photos at last night’s NIT basketball game between Penn State and George Mason. I especially liked these two—of George Mason’s Louis Birdsong in mid-air against Jamelle Cornley, and of Cornley grimacing in pain after re-injuring his shoulder. You can see these and 10 more here.
Tina Hay, editor
If you didn’t catch Penn State’s exhilarating, last-second, come-from-behind defeat of No. 23 Illinois on Thursday night, you missed what was probably the biggest game and best crowd in Bryce Jordan Center history. (For a recap with video highlights, click here.) If the win didn’t earn the Nittany Lions an NCAA Tournament bid, it got them awfully close. One more win — either in Saturday’s regular-season finale at Iowa, or at next week’s Big Ten tournament — should seal the deal.
For me, the game was only the highlight of a great afternoon and evening at the Jordan Center. The 9 p.m., ESPN-mandated tip off was a drag, but it had a silver lining for those of us who cover the team. Brian Siegrist, the media relations liaison for the men’s basketball team, was able to secure an hour of court time for media members, and I joined the rag-tag crew — Siegrist, Blue White Illustrated writers Nate Bauer ’05 and Sean Fitz, Dave Jones of the Patriot-News, and the Daily Collegian trio of Matt Brown, Matt Fortuna, and Nate Mink — for a late-afternoon full-court run. I’m more sore today (and missed more easy shots) than I’d like to admit, but it was a lot of fun.
A couple of hours later, it was time for the real players to take their turn. The game and atmosphere were amazing — thanks in part to Penn State quarterback Daryll Clark, who took the mic before tipoff to hype up the whited-out crowd, which responded in kind. They, and the national TV audience, got quite a show: Penn State was down 10 with five minutes left, and senior leader Jamelle Cornley was out with what looked like a separated shoulder (though he somehow came back into the game a few minutes later, practically dragging his arm around the court). Fellow senior Stanley Pringle hit some huge shots to keep the game close, and then, predictably, it was uber-confident sophomore guard Talor Battle taking the ball the length of the court in the closing seconds and hitting a driving layup that almost seemed to stop on the rim before dropping in. Cue thousands of white-clad fans storming the court. It was quite a moment.
There was another slightly less monumental (but no less cool) moment at halftime, when the entertainment featured a game between the Bellefonte fifth-and sixth-grade boys rec league teams. The highlight of that game was a surging layup by one Ian Marshall, son of Penn Stater editorial assistant Barb. I hope Ed DeChellis was paying attention — the kid can play.
Ryan Jones, senior editor
Penn State basketball fans of every stripe have reason to be excited this week, starting with the United States Collegiate Athletic Association men’s and women’s basketball championships. The Fayette and Greater Allegheny campuses are hosting the USCAA tournament, which features six Penn State campus squads. The Penn State Beaver women’s team tips things off at 11 a.m. today, the first of 49 games covering three divisions (two men’s, one women’s) that run through Saturday’s back-to-back-to-back title games at Fayette. (Check here for ticket info, or here to follow the results.)
Back in the Division 1 ranks, the Lady Lion basketball team opens Big Ten Tournament play Thursday night in Indianapolis. It’s been a disappointing season for Penn State, which needs to win the conference tournament to have any hope of postseason play. Tuesday brought some consolation, though: junior guard Tyra Grant was named first-team All-Big Ten.
The real buzz at University Park this week surrounds the Nittany Lion men, who rest firmly on the bubble for their first NCAA tournament berth since 2001. With two regular-season games left before the Big Ten men’s tournament tips off next week, Ed DeChellis’ team boasts that most favorable of sports cliches — they control their own destiny. A win Thursday night against No. 23 Illinois (which wouldn’t be a huge upset, since Penn State beat the Illini two weeks ago in one of the ugliest games anyone can remember) would give the Nittany Lions a terrific shot at making the Big Dance. No wonder some are calling this the biggest Penn State home game in almost 20 years.
If nothing else, it’s the last home game for senior forward and team leader Jamelle Cornley, whose toughness while battling bigger opponents and a long string of injuries has made him a favorite of every long-time Penn State hoops follower. Few would appreciate — or deserve — an NCAA tourney invite more than Cornley.
Ryan Jones, senior editor