University Park, Pa. -- Talor Battle continued to add to his already burgeoning legend Tuesday night in the Jordan Center, hitting a game-tying three as time expired in regulation and nine-straight points in overtime to lead Penn State past George Mason, 77-73, in an NIT first round overtime thriller.
Battle, who hit a final second game winner vs. No. 23 Illinois in his last BJC appearance, posted a game-high 24 points on the night and added six assists and five boards while playing all 45 minutes of a tight contest that saw 24 lead changes and seven ties.
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"It's just fun," Battle said of his last second prowess. "In practice, I always joke around with coach, he will tell you. When we do our last-second things, I always try to shoot it. I like to call myself Mr. Big Shot. It's more of a joke, but during the games coach wants me to have the ball in my hands to make a play, and fortunately enough, in my career here, I've been able to make them."
Battle led the Lions to their first post-season win since knocking off North Carolina to advance to the 2001 NCAA Sweet 16. Penn State improved to 23-11 on the year, just two wins shy of the program record for wins in a season, and 9-2 in home NIT games. The Lions are now a program-best 16-3 at home on the year.
The Nittany Lions will get a chance to improve on that mark Thursday when they host No. 6 seed Rhode Island in a 7 p.m. tip. The Rams won at Niagara, 68-62, on Tuesday and defeated Penn State earlier this season, 77-72, in the Philly Hoop Group Classic in Philadelphia.
Penn State shot 50.0 percent (30-60) from the floor and 45.8 percent (11-24) from three on Tuesday and got career highs from Jeff Brooks (13) and Chris Babb (11) and a double-digit night from Andrew Jones (11). The 30-point bench performance was crucial for a Lion team that lost senior Jamelle Cornley who aggravated a left shoulder injury that has hampered him the last month of the season and is doubtful for Thursday's contest. He left the game just 12 seconds into the second half and played just 15 minutes in the game. Still, the Lions out rebounded the Patriots 34-30 and posted their most assists (20) since November.
George Mason shot 45.9 percent (28-61) from the floor and 32 percent (8-25) from the arc. Cameron Long's 16 points and four assists led the Patriots, while Michael Morrison added 11 points and eight boards. Dre Smith and Andre Cornelius pitched in with 12 points apiece.
"I thought it was a good basketball game," Penn State coach Ed DeChellis said. "Both teams were excited to be here and play. There was a great energy in the building. It was a fun, great basketball game. Both teams scored. Both teams didn't guard great, but they had fun playing and it feels good to be on the winning side. It's our first postseason win since 2001, so there is a lot of good stuff."
In a game that teetered back and forth throughout the second half, Penn State took a one-point lead, 62-61, when David Jackson connected on a jumper with 1:30 to play. Mason went to Monroe who backed his way down in the paing for a short lay-up returning the lead back to Mason, 63-62.
Penn State set up a go-ahead play for Battle who got up a floater that would roll off the rim and was rebounded by Monroe forcing Penn State to foul with 20.9 seconds to go. Coming out of the timeout, Long committed a violation by moving along the baseline while attempting a spot inbound giving the ball to the Lions for another opportunity to take the lead.
Mason had fouls to give and used two to disrupt Penn State's attempts to set up a play. Penn State in bounded the ball to Battle, who drove to the basket, slipped and was forced to throw the ball up turning it over to the Patriots. With no timeouts left, George Mason in bounded the ball and Penn State fouled Dre Smith sending him to the line where he nailed both for a three-point lead, 65-62, with five seconds to play.
With its fate seemingly sealed, Penn State in-bounded to Battle who drove the length of the floor, pulled up for three, pump faked in mid air as Smith flew by and swished the game tying bucket as the buzzer sounded.
The consummate big-situation performer, Battle took the momentum straight to the overtime knocking down back-to-back threes in the opening minute-and-a-half to give the Lions a 71-65 lead.
Long then hit two free throws and Morrison one on the other end to draw Mason within three, 71-68, but Battle charged into the paint for a lay-up that capped a string of 11-straight points for the sophomore and gave the Lions a 73-68 lead with 2:05 to play.
After a pair of Jones free throws extended the lead to seven, Smith got a lay-up and John Vaughan hit a three for Mason to cut the margin to two, 75-73, with 10 seconds to play. Mason fouled Pringle on the next possession and the senior drained both foul shots to ice the game.
Both teams shot over 50 percent in the first half as Penn State took a 38-31 lead to the locker room.
A Battle three to tied the game at 20 a piece with 8:35 left in the half. Coming out of a time-out Battle found himself open on the wing for another three to add to a 6-0 run and give Penn State a 23-20 lead. Babb hit a deep three from the top of the key. After a defensive stop, Babb hit his second consecutive three, this one from the right corner, to give the Lions their biggest lead of the game, 29-20, with 5:26 to play in the half and capping a 12-0 run.
Long hit a jumper starting a 5-0 run for George Mason as Cornelius added a three to cut Penn State's lead to four, 31-27.
A Jeff Brooks three and Pringle lay-up kept the Lions lead at seven to close the first half.