Friday, April 3, 2009

Guest Contributor Ray Floriani: The NIT Finals

by Ray Floriani

NEW YORK CITY -- Penn State earned their first NIT championship with a 69-63 victory over Baylor. Before the game decided to do a tempo free look at the two teams performances in the four NIT games leading to the championship.

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Offensive efficiency was the key to both. Defense? Not great by any stretch. Baylor’s perimeter skills and their extended zone which can disrupt passing lanes no doubt accounted for the opponent’s 19% To rate.

At the half Baylor had a 29-25 lead. Baylor’s first half eFG percentage was 52 to Penn State’s 41. The thing that helped the Lions only go into the break with a 4 point (29-25) deficit was rebounding and getting to loose balls. Penn State’s OREB pct was 39% in comparison to 14% for the Bears.

At the half

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The first few minutes of the second half saw the Lions come out strong. With 16 minutes to go it was 32 all. The game stayed even until midway through the final half. Penn State’s Danny Morrissey then buried consecutive Treys and Jeff Brooks added another. Suddenly the lead was nine. Baylor made a few runs but could never get the deficit under two possessions.

After hitting those threes to get the lead, the Lions went right back into the paint and utilized their inside strength. In the final minutes it was a case of hitting from the charity stripe to seal the verdict. The final numbers:

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Penn State shot better in the second half. The Lions attempted 28 free throws to Baylor’s six. Drew spoke but did not complain about the free throw disparity. Simply it was a case of perimeter vs. paint. Baylor attempted 52% of their shots beyond the arc (to Penn State’s 45). The more significant number was offensive rebounding percentage. Especially in the first half the Lions extended possessions with their board work. Baylor also was in the fouling mode, to stop the clock and get the ball back, the final minutes.

Cornley led the Lions with 18 points 7 boards and earned MVP honors. LaceDarius Dunn paced Baylor with 18. Talor Battle also earned all tournament and had a solid 12 point 7 assist night for the full 40 minutes. He defended Curtis Jerrells of Baylor well holding him to 14 points on 5 of 16 shooting.

"This team was as committed as any team I’ve ever had...We were disappointed a few weeks ago by not being invited to the other tournament but our kids put that behind us right away and our goal was to win this thing." -- Penn State coach Ed DeChellis

"At the time I had no idea how big that shot would be." -- Talor Battle whose last second trey forced overtime in the first round win over George Mason.

"I think it’s remarkable. Coming in and their first year winning four games...Then being able to walk away being the all-time winningest group of seniors to set foot on Baylor’s campus. They have really raised the bar for the program." -- Coach Scott Drew on his seniors.

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