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NCAA Game Summary - Baylor vs. Penn State
(Thursday, April 2nd)
Final Score: Penn State 69, Baylor 63
New York, NY (Sports Network) - Jamelle Cornley dominated the paint in the final game of his career to the tune of 18 points and seven rebounds, and the Penn State Nittany Lions won their first NIT championship with a 69-63 victory over the Baylor Bears at Madison Square Garden.
Cornley went 8-of-15 from the field overall for the Nittany Lions (27-11), who set a team-record for wins in a single season and captured the school's first national tournament title ever. Talor Battle tallied 12 points, seven assists and six boards, as Penn State outscored Baylor in the second half, 44-34, to run away with the victory at the end.
"The last time I cut down nets was the state championship my freshman year of high school," Cornley said. "Now, eight years later, cutting down some more nets, that's a good feeling."
David Jackson and Stanley Pringle each provided 10 points in the victory.
"Our team, I'm so proud of them. This team was as committed as any team I've ever had," said Penn State head coach Ed DeChellis. "They wanted to win a championship. Our goal was to come in here and win this thing. I told them at the pre-game meal don't be denied."
Penn State became the second consecutive Big Ten team to win this championship, as Ohio State captured it last season. The Lions were making their second appearance in the NIT final, losing in 1998 to Minnesota, which eventually had its victory vacated by an academic scandal.
LaceDarius Dunn scored a team-high 18 points for Baylor (24-15), which was playing in its first-ever NIT finale. The Bears were rocked by a player's murder of teammate Patrick Dennehy in 2003, but have recovered to make the postseason in two consecutive seasons. The team recorded its first postseason victories since 1950 by winning its first four games of this tournament before falling on Thursday.
"So many firsts, (our team has) really raised the bar for the program," said Baylor head coach Scott Drew. "In a game like this, you don't feel bad when the other team wins it. I'm proud of the way the team responded."
Curtis Jerrells contributed 14 points, while Tweety Carter and Kevin Rogers each added 12 points in the losing effort.
"They did a really good job working the zone, and they have a few shooters who made shots," Jerrells said. "We got a lot of good looks. It's on us to make shots, and we didn't make shots."
Down four at halftime, Penn State quickly made up the deficit in the second half, beginning the period on a 7-1 spurt to take a 32-30 lead on Jackson's three-pointer.
After five straight Lions points put the team up by three, 37-34, Dunn drained a three to tie the game with 12:26 remaining. But Danny Morrissey and Jeff Brooks combined for three straight three-pointers to give Penn State a nine- point edge two minutes later.
Battle's driving layup that ended with a nifty underhand scoop extended the lead to 50-40 with just over eight minutes left, but two technical free throws from Dunn immediately followed by a Rogers layup cut Baylor's deficit to six with 7:21 to go.
Battle followed with a three that got a friendly bounce off the front of the rim to make it 55-46, and after Dunn committed an intentional foul on Pringle, the Penn State guard sank both of his free throws to keep the margin at nine with under four minutes left.
Baylor was never able to recover, as a Battle floater from the lane made it an 11-point game, 61-50, with 1:45 to play, and the Nittany Lions made their free throws down the stretch to secure the title.
"It was like playing a home game out there for us," DeChellis said of the thousands of often-audible Penn State fans in the crowd. "We had tremendous support from our fans. It was a great, great atmosphere for us."
After some cold shooting to start the game, Baylor finally started to heat up from beyond the arc, and three consecutive long distance shots -- from Carter, Jerrells and Dunn -- gave the Bears a 9-7 lead 5 1/2 minutes into the contest.
Cornley used his strength to dominate in the paint, scoring 10 of the Lions' first 19 points, giving Penn State a 19-16 lead with 8:53 on the clock.
"I went into the game knowing I wanted to set the tone offensively or defensively," Cornley said. "We wanted to go inside early. With me scoring inside early, it opened some things up for the guards."
But Baylor answered with an 10-1 run, as Penn State went nearly seven minutes without a field goal. Rogers' jumper made it a 26-20 game with just over three minutes remaining, and the Bears led, 29-25, at halftime.
This marked the second-ever meeting between the schools. Baylor won the previous matchup, a 72-70 victory in the 1990 Dr. Pepper Invitational...Penn State beat George Mason, Rhode Island, Florida and Notre Dame on its way to the championship, while Baylor topped Georgetown, Virginia Tech, Auburn and San Diego State to reach this point...Penn State is now 22-9 all-time in the NIT, while Baylor is 4-4...It was the first April game in Baylor basketball history...Morrissey left the game with 2 1/2 minutes remaining after slamming his face against the floor, suffering some bleeding from his mouth. He scored nine points.
04/02 22:35:17 ET