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Cornley leads Penn State past Indiana

Thursday, March 12, 2009

By MICHAEL MAROT

AP Sports Writer

INDIANAPOLIS -- Jamelle Cornley used his pregame speech to convey his emotions about making the NCAA tournament.

He did an even better job showing his Penn State teammates how to get there.

With the Nittany Lions needing one or two more wins to likely lock up their first tourney bid since 2001, the senior swingman took matters into his own hands by scoring 14 points in the first 11 minutes, finishing with 22 points and leading the Nittany Lions past Indiana 66-51 in Thursday's first-round game at the Big Ten tournament.

"That 13-game skid my sophomore year, it allowed us to be here. Going through the frustrations, the mental frustrations that year helped all of us. The coaching staff, too," Cornley said. "Now we've put ourselves in position to be in the NCAA tournament."

Forgive Cornley if he's a little early for the selection committee.

Thursday's victory gave sixth-seeded Penn State (22-10) the second most wins in school history, a chance to face third-seeded Purdue in Friday's quarterfinals and put them one win away from their first tourney semifinal appearance in eight years.

It also may have put them in the NCAA tourney. Another win Friday against Purdue would likely lock it up.

So Cornley, who spent his first three years enduring the tribulations, was determined not to let anything stand in the way of his dream -- not the selection committee, not a few late-season stumbles and certainly not an undermanned Indiana team.

Cornley answered his own challenge by making his first six shots, including two 3-pointers, and his first two free throws. Stanley Pringle helped out, scoring 13 of his 16 points in the first 20 minutes, too.

The struggling Hoosiers had no answers, losing their fourth straight to the Nittany Lions. Penn State completed its first three-game sweep of Indiana in school history.

And there was one reason.

"Jamelle really let his heart spill out, said this is his last go-round," guard Talor Battle said. "He showed it, he played a heck of a game. He set the tone. He was great today. He set the tone for everybody else, and we jumped on his back."

For the struggling Hoosiers (6-25), the combination was too much. Again.

Indiana, which had only eight scholarship players this season, was even shorter-handed than usual. Starting guard Devan Dumes missed his second straight game with a right knee injury.

Losing Dumes was only part of the problem.

Verdell Jones scored 23 points to lead Indiana, which lost its 10th straight, but he had no help. Nobody else scored more than five.

The Hoosiers didn't do anything right.

They got rattled by Penn State's defensive pressure and couldn't get in the way long enough to prevent Cornley and Pringle from taking control. At times, Indiana threw inbound passes straight to Nittany Lions players.

The result was predictable. Indiana committed seven turnovers in less than 10 minutes, burned three timeouts in less than 12 minutes and allowed Cornley and Pringle to score 25 points in the first 11 minutes. Heck, coach Tom Crean even drew his first technical of the season seven minutes into the game.

It was that kind of day -- and that kind of season.

The Hoosiers endured two double-digit losing streaks and finished with the fewest wins since the 1915-16 team also won six games. They closed it out by shooting 36.7 percent from the field and missing 7-of-16 free throws, a season-long problem.

"They got off to a great start," freshman guard Matt Roth said. "They shot the ball well in the beginning and we were able to string some stops together there for a while but not enough."

Cornley got it started.

He scored the game's first five points and then spurred the Nittany Lions on a 21-4 run that made it 26-8 with 10:42 left in the first half.

Indiana got as close as 38-25 at halftime but never got any closer in the second half.

Cornley scored four more points in Penn State's opening 11-4 run that put Indiana in a 49-28 hole.

Now, maybe coach Ed DeChellis will let the NCAA talk begin.

"We never said to them this is a must game, never said to them we've got to have this one," DeChellis said. "I never wanted to put that pressure on them."



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