Penn State Prepares for First NCAA Tournament Game in a Decade

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Everyone knows that Nittany Nation is much more a college football republic than it is college basketball country. And the difference is quite extreme. But maybe this is a start of something new for the Penn State Nittany Lions?

#10 seeded State (19-14; 9-9 Big Ten) will face a very familiar foe Thursday when the Nittany Lions take on #7 seed and in-state rival Temple in Tucson, AZ, tipping at 2:10 (ET) on TNT. PSU has lost to Temple in two of the last three seasons.

Penn State played its last NCAA Tournament game against Temple, losing 84-72 in the 2001 NCAA Sweet Sixteen. The winner of the Penn State-Temple contest will face the winner of #2 seed San Diego State vs. #15 Northern Colorado, on Saturday at the University of Arizona’s McKale Center.

PSU won their most recent meetings with Temple in football, can they do it in basketball?

By Paul M. Banks

talor battle

The Nittany Lions have won seven of their last 10 and reached their first-ever Big Ten Tournament Championship game behind the play of All-Tournament Team selection Talor Battle who posted game highs of 25 points and 24 points, respectively, in the Lions semifinal victory over Michigan State (61-48) and final loss to No. 1 Ohio State (71-60).

A two-time All-Big Ten first-team selection, Battle played all 40 minutes in all four games of the tournament and in eight of his last nine games. Penn State’s all-time leading scorer (2,190) and the second leading scorer in the Big Ten on the season (20.1), he brings 664 points (the second best season total in Penn State history) into the NCAA Tournament. Battle currently stands 11th all-time in the Big Ten is scoring and sixth in three-pointers (312) and has posted the second-best season three-point total (101) in Penn State history, just seven shy of Joe Crispin’s season record of 108 posted in 2001.

Sophomore Guard Tim Frazier has averaged 9.5 points and 5.8 assists per game over thelast 10 games while shooting 49.2 percent from the floor and 8-of-12 from three. Frazier posted career highs of 22 points and eight rebounds in the Lions’ Big Ten Tournament semifinal win over Michigan State.

When their backcourt is playing together, and both guards are on, PSU is a tough out for anybody. They seem to be playing really well and cohesively right now, and clearly saved their best basketball for last recently.

“I’ve been listening to all the people talking about how U Conn won five in five days and their biggest concern is will they wear out come tournament time. But that’s not crossing our mind. We’re playing well,” Talor Battle said following the title game loss to Ohio State. “this game I think will help us going in understanding what we need to improve on and things like that.”

Temple posted a 25-7 record on the year and went 14-2 in the Atlantic-10. The Owls finished the regular season on an11-1 run, with the one loss coming to West Region No. 1 seed Duke. Scootie Randall, the A-10’s most improved player and is expected to return from an injury. Four-year starter Lavoy Allen is the leading rebounder and Ramone Moore leads the Owls scoring 14.8 ppg.

The Nittany Lions have a 9-10 all-time tournament record. Led by first-team All-American Jesse Arnelle, Penn State advanced to the 1954 Final Four. Penn State is making its ninth NCAA Tournament appearance all-time and first since upsetting #2 seed North Carolina to reach the sweet sixteen.

So what will be the key to making another deep run today?

“the key is for us to get home and get some rest and kind of clean up some of the bruises we got and bumps, regroup, and go back at it defensively and rebound. Offensively we didn’t make many shots tonight. I think Jeff and Bubby made some shots, but I’ve got to get the other guys offensively in some rhythm because we didn’t get,” Coach Ed DeChellis said.

Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net, a Midwest webzine. He’s also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, the Tribune’s blog network, Walter Football, Yardbarker Network, and Fox Sports

He does a weekly radio segment on Chicagoland Sports Radio.com and Cleveland.com

You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbank

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