NIT Finals: Penn St. Defeats Baylor (aka We’re #66!)Posted by rtmsf on April 3rd, 2009
Ray Floriani of College Chalktalk is the RTC correspondent for the MAAC and NEC conferences. He occasionally finds himself at various other venues throughout the Northeast, including the NIT Finals on Thursday night.
NEW YORK CITY – They started about 5:15. A sea of blue and mostly white. They chanted ‘we are, Penn State’. They headed to Madison Square Garden for the NIT championship. The Baylor team filed in the player’s entrance. Politely focusing on the task and graciously acknowledging ‘good luck’ and well wishers.
The Garden was filling with white, a white out game one fan said. Mike and Rachel, two Penn State undergrads, report 35 buses made the trip from Happy Valley. For twenty dollars you had round trip fare and admission. A steal and 15 dollars less than I paid to park.
Baylor drew first blood with a four point halftime lead. The first few minutes of the second half, Jamelle Cornley establishes a paint presence and Penn State is tied. Three straight threes, two by Danny Morrissey, give the Nittany Lions a nine point lead midway through the second half. A lead they won’t surrender en route to a 69-63 NIT title. Their first.
Cornley’s 18 points and 7 boards earn him MVP honors. On the floor the party is on. Nets are cut. Students pose and snap pictures. Talor Battle tells yours truly he never knew how big his last second three to force OT in a first round win over George Mason would be. “Guess it’s all part of the game,” he adds matter of factly.
Writing friend Jeff Bernstein poses with JoePa, legendary and thrilled, Joe Paterno. Yours truly, A JoePa fan but guess who is the choice for posing?
Forty minutes after the game Penn State players and fans mill about soaking in a special moment on a pleasant evening. A few of the Penn State group even partakes in New York’s ‘sidewalk cuisine’. Why not ? The celebration has begun.