Cornley shoulders the load to carry Lions to NIT semifinals

Gainesville, Fla. — Jamelle Cornley returned with a vengeance and the Nittany Lion basketball team physically dominated No. 1 seeded Florida in an impressive 71-62 victory Tuesday night in the quarterfinals of the National Invitation Tournament in Gainesville, Fla.

Cornley was dominating with a game-high 23 points and 12 rebounds as the Nittany Lions handed the Gators just their second loss in 20 home games on the season and improved to a perfect 5-0 in NIT quarterfinal games to advance to the semifinals in New York's Madison Square Garden on Tuesday, March 31. The Nittany Lions will play No. 2 seeded Notre Dame which defeated No. 4 seeded Kentucky in the quarterfinals.

Penn State equaled a school record with its 25th win on the season as the Lions improved to 25-11 to tie the mark set in 1989-90 (25-9). It was also Penn State's sixth road victory of the season, equaling the Lions' most in the Big Ten era. Perhaps the most impressive road season in Lion history includes victories at No. 9 Michigan State, at No. 16 Illinois, at the SEC's Florida, at the ACC's Georgia Tech, a first-ever victory at Indiana and a win over Penn in the Palestra.

Florida, just two seasons removed from back-to-back NCAA titles, completed its season at 25-11. The Lions held Gator leading scorer Nick Calathes to 10 points on 3-of-12 shooting and 0-of-6 from three and out-rebounded the Gators 37-27. Florida shot just 41 percent one game after torching Miami, Fla. in a double-digit second round victory in Gainesville. Erving Walker led the Gators with 16 points on 4-of-8 from three.

The Nittany Lions improved to 15-3 on the year when Cornley, Battle and Pringle score in double-figures. Battle added 13 points and five assists in 39 minutes of action against Gator pressure, and tied Freddie Barnes for the third-best PSU season assist total ever with 177. He stands just five short of breaking Dan Earl's school record of 181 set in 1995. Pringle had 15 points, five boards and four assists hitting 5-of-9 from three. David Jackson was impressive with a season-high 14 points and four boards. Penn State hit 48 percent from the floor and a season-best 91 percent (11-12) from the free throw line, including 9-of-10 in the final eight minutes.

Cornley, who shot 11-of-14 on the night, moved into fifth place on Penn State's all-time scoring chart passing former teammate Geary Claxton (1,542) with 1,546 points. His 12 rebounds moved him into sixth place all-time with 741 passing Carver Clinton (734) and just four back of tying John Amaechi (745) for a top five mark in that category.

Penn State took a 33-32 lead to the locker room after a well-played first half in which the Lions shot 46 percent and held Florida to 41 percent despite a roaring O'Connell Center crowd. Cornley led the way hitting his first two from the floor, despite a heavily wrapped left shoulder, and scored Penn State's first six points before finishing with 12 on the half. The Lions would improve to 22-1 when leading at the half on the year.

Florida took as big as a seven-point lead, 32-25, with under four minutes to play in the half as Erving Walker hit 3-of-3 from behind the arc to lead Florida with nine points.

Penn State showed the resiliency it has displayed all season coming back from several Florida runs that had the Gators up by five several times and quieting the Gator crowd. Florida led 11-9 at the 14:22 timeout as Andrew Jones picked up two early fouls.

A Battle steal and kick ahead to Cornley for a dunk gave the Lions their first lead, 16-15. A Pringle three made it 19-17 Penn State and Florida called a timeout with 10:52 to play.

A pair of Walker threes gave Florida a 25-21 lead minutes later. When the Gators got a steal and Nick Calathes converted a lay-up Florida led 32-25.

Penn State responded getting a nice tip-in from David Jackson and a pair of Pringle threes for an 8-0 run that gave them a 33-32 lead. Penn State held Florida to a shot clock violation on its last possession and Battle just missed a last second three to close the half.

A Cornley jumper quickly extended the Penn State lead to three to start the second half. A Walter Hodge three tied the game at 37 all, but Pringle buried a three to return the lead to the Lions.

After a Calathes jumper and a bucket from Ray Shipman the Gators took their only lead of the second half, 41-40. Penn State played through the roaring crowd and Battle fed Cornley for a bucket to regain the lead. After the Gators closed back to within one, Penn State used and 8-0 run to establish a 52-43 lead and force a Florida timeout with 10:53 to play.

Andrew Jones started the run with a strong offensive board and was then fouled on the put-back. He buried both at the line. Morrissey buried a three and the Pringle followed from behind the arc. Morrissey had a long three rattle out before Florida broke the run with an Alex Tyus lay-up.

Calathes got a lay-up to get Florida back to within six and the Gators appeared primed to make another run. But, with the crowd roaring Penn State went to Cornley on the block. The senior spun on Tyus, got him to jump with an up and under and converted while drawing the foul. He hit the free throw following a timeout and the Lions led 57-48 with 7:54 to play.

Tyus got a dunk on the other end the crowd again tried to get behind the Gators, but Penn State got big three offensive rebounds to continue to run clock on its following possession until Battle fed Jackson for an and-one lay-up that extend the lead to 10, 60-50, with 5:39 to play.

The Gators went to a frantic press to try to get back in the game causing four Lion turnovers and making a 9-1 run to get within two, 61-59, on a Dan Werner lay-up with 2:10 to play. With the crowd roaring again, Penn State went back to Cornley who buried a jumper. Following a Calathes miss, Jackson hit a big basket and Penn State led 65-59 with 50 seconds to play. It was a parade to the free throw line after that as hit 4-of-4 and Jackson a pair down the stretch to ice the game.

Jamelle Cornley recorded 23 points and 12 rebounds to send the Nittany Lions to the NIT semifinals March 31 at Madison Square Garden. Credit: Penn State Sports InformationAll Rights Reserved.

Last Updated November 18, 2010