CONFERENCES COACHING CHANGES TRANSACTIONS GAMING MATCHUP CURRENT ODDS
Notre Dame (21-14) vs. Penn State (25-11)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Tuesday, March 31st, 9:00 p.m. (et).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Madison Square Garden (19,786) -- New York, New York. Television: ESPN2. NIT Record: Notre Dame 26-10, Penn State 20-9. Series Record: Penn State leads, 2-1.
GAME NOTES: Playing at Madison Square Garden for the third time this season, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish clash with the Penn State Nittany Lions in the semifinals of the 72nd Annual NIT. In the postseason in one form or another for the 10th straight year, the Fighting Irish previously made stops in the World's Most Famous Arena against St. John's as part of their Big East Conference slate early in January and then returned to the venue for the league tournament in March, first beating Rutgers and then losing to West Virginia. As far as the NIT is concerned, second-seeded Notre Dame is now 26-10 in the event thanks to wins over UAB (70-64), New Mexico (70-68) and Kentucky (77-67) in the first three rounds. Notre Dame has finished second in this tournament a total of four times (1973, 1984, 1992 and 2000) but has yet to bring home the crown. Meanwhile, the second-seeded Nittany Lions have now equaled the school's single-season record for victories with 25, thanks to a convincing 71-62 triumph over Florida last week, on the road at the O'Connell Center where the Gators were shooting for a record of their own for wins in the single season. PSU, which has a second-place finish in the NIT from 11 years ago, is now 20-9 in the event with first and second-round wins against George Mason and Rhode Island, respectively. Of the three previous meetings between these two programs, two have been won by the Nittany Lions. Nine years ago Notre Dame crushed Penn State during the NIT in a 73-52 decision, and 46 years after the Lions logged a 71-63 victory during the third round of the NCAA Tournament in Iowa City. Prior to that, the very first encounter took place at University Park in 1925, with the home team capturing a 33-22 win. The winner of this meeting will be pitted against the survivor of the Baylor/San Diego State matchup in the title game on Thursday night.
One of four players to score in double figures for the Fighting Irish last week at the Joyce Center, Luke Harangody registered 30 points and 11 rebounds, along with four assists, as he led the team to the win over the visiting Kentucky Wildcats. The decision turned out to be the final game on the sidelines for Kentucky head coach Billy Gillispie who on Friday was informed that he would not be retained by the program. For Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey, Kyle McAlarney and Ryan Ayers stepped up with 15 and 14 points, respectively, while Tory Jackson tallied 10 points and five assists to help offset the fact that fellow starter Zach Hillesland was held scoreless over the course of 24 minutes. Harangody, one of only a handful of college players who can claim to have averaged a double-double this season, leads the team with his 23.5 ppg and 11.8 rpg and is also first with 31 blocked shots. McAlarney has produced another 15.1 ppg, shooting better behind the three- point line (.426) than he has from the field (.409) over the course of 35 games this season. McAlarney is also second on the team in assists with 120, trailing only Jackson (10.6 ppg) who has kept the squad moving on offense with his 173 dishes, not to mention four and a half rebounds per game as well. Ayers checks in with 11.3 ppg and is also a deep threat for the squad with his impressive 43.9 percent accuracy out on the perimeter as he and McAlarney have combined to make 216 three-point baskets and pushed the group to 39.9 percent beyond the arc altogether.
After sitting out the previous game with a dislocated left shoulder, Jamelle Cornley returned to action for the Nittany Lions, bandaged and ready to bruise Florida on the road in the nine-point decision last Tuesday night. Cornley knocked down 11-of-14 shots from the floor, posting a double-double with team highs of 23 points and 12 rebounds in the triumph. Stanley Pringle converted 5-of-9 shots behind the three-point line to come up with his 15 points, adding five boards and four assists, followed by David Jackson with 14 points. Although he missed all but one of his eight three-point tries, Talor Battle fought his way to 13 points and five assists as the team banded together to limit Florida's Nick Calathes to 3-of-12 shooting from the floor and 0-of-6 beyond the arc. Cornley's presence in the paint was huge for the Nittany Lions and has been all season with his 14.2 ppg and team-best 6.3 rpg. However, the 52 percent shooter could prove to be a detriment to the squad should he be on the floor in crunch time and sent to the free-throw line where he is a mere 53.3 percent accurate after his 35 appearances. Battle (16.8 ppg), the all- conference performer for Penn State, has shown confidence at the stripe with his 71.5 percent shooting and always has something positive happening when he's on the floor, whether it be his 5.3 rpg or his team-best 177 assists or 44 steals this season. While Cornley works the paint and Battle everywhere else, Pringle (12.9 ppg) does his best work out on the perimeter where he's made good on an astounding 47 percent of his chances thus far.
Harangody will be a tough matchup for the Nittany Lions, but as long as PSU can show the same determination and drive as it did versus Florida in a hostile environment, there's no doubt the squad can stay competitive and perhaps even pull off the win.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Penn State 68, Notre Dame 65
03/31 10:31:16 ET