Friday, April 3, 2009

Guest blog: Ray Floriani on the NIT Final

Soaking up the action in New York last night was Ray Floriani, a writer for several sites focused on college hoops.

By Ray Floriani, Basketball Times, Hoopville, College Chalk Talk

NEW YORK CITY – Let the party begin. Or continue.

Penn State defeated Baylor 69-63 to capture their first NIT championship. Observations on the first half…

Baylor used a 2-3 zone that started out 1-1-3 before shifting. “I call it a good defense if it works,” said Baylor coach Scott Drew when asked if it had a terminology. The zone extends and Penn State in the early going used a good part of the clock to get a good shot. Getting the ball into Jamelle Cornley in the high post was crucial as Cornley dished to the weakside or hit shots in the lane.

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 percentage was 39% in comparison to 14% for the Bears.

The first few minutes of the second half saw the Lions come out strong. Cornley hit two in the paint and David Jackson buried a three. 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.

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. Lions extended possessions with their board work, especially in the first half. 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.

For the final 36 bus loads of students and fans made the trip to MSG. Nice deal as twenty dollars got the fans a bus and game ticket. And of course Joe PA was in attendance and loving every championship minute.

“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," said Penn State coach Ed DeChellis.

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

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