Battle Saves the Day Again

Senior guard scores Penn State's final eight points in closer than expected win over Mount St. Mary's at the BJC.

Guard Talor Battle's 27-foot, tie-breaking bomb with 1.5 seconds left was the highlight moment of Penn State's too-close-for-comfort 57-53 win over Mount St. Mary's at the Jordan Center Tuesday night.

“He's a special player, he helped us find a way to win,” said Nittany Lion coach Ed DeChellis, whose team improved to 7-2.

But the defining moment of the game happened with 4:30 remaining, when Battle barreled down the lane and tossed an off-balance shot off the backboard. It was his 11th miss in 12 attempts.

Teammate Jeff Brooks grabbed the offensive rebound and was fouled, creating a dead-ball situation. DeChellis called over Battle, talked to him, then showed him a spot on the bench. State led 49-46 after Brooks hit one of two and now its best player was on the pine.

“Coach always tells me if I take a bad shot,” Battle said. “I couldn't hit a shot, and when he asked me what I was doing, I told him I was just trying to make a play.”

Even from press row, DeChellis could be seen rolling his eyes during the conversation.

“He was trying to force the pace,” DeChellis said. “We said sit down and take a break and gather yourself, and let me know when you're ready to go back in.”

“I sat down, cleared my mind for a moment, and refocused,” Battle said.

Did he ever. Battle returned with 3:12 remaining and, with the Lions holding a precarious 49-48 lead, took over the game. First he drove hard to the basket and was fouled, which led to a pair of free throws and a 51-48 lead.

Mount St. Mary's guard Lamar Trice responded with a 3-pointer to tie, after which Battle sliced down the land and lofted a soft shot off the board to put PSU back in front (53-51) with 52 seconds left.

Trice hit a shot jumper at the :29 mark to tie it again, setting up Battle's dramatic final shot. As he stood dribbling in the midcourt circle to whittle away the seconds, the modest crowd of 5,154 came to its feet in anticipation.

The plan was to work Battle off a ball screen for another shot in the lane, but as he began to set the offense in motion the Mountaineers switched to a 2-3 zone. Battle passed to Cammeron Woodyard, and instead of angling toward the paint drifted to his right and away from all traffic.

Woodyard whipped the ball back to Battle, and though he was only a few steps away from the Bryce Jordan Center logo on the floor, he rose up and shot the ball. He was 1 of 7 on 3-pointers prior to that shot.

“That was the best shot I had all night,” Battle said. “It was the most in rhythm I was all night and I knocked it down.”

“Good players make shots in those situations,” said Mount St. Mary's coach Robert Burke, whose team fell to 3-6.

The Mountaineers threw the ensuing inbounds pass out of bounds, to give PSU possession. Battle was fouled and made one of two, giving him the Nittany Lions' final eight points of the night.

“That's a senior guard who has been through the wars,” DeChellis said.

But Battle was the first to admit the game should not have come down to a war or a game-winning bomb. Even without injured forward D.J. Jackson and Billy Oliver, PSU led comfortably through the first half and went up 33-22 when Brooks opened the second half with a layup.

Then PSU got sloppy. Four of its first five possessions of the final period resulted in turnovers, allowing Mount St. Mary's to creep right back in it. The game featured five ties and four lead changes in the second half alone.

“We played so poorly, with a lack of energy or emotion,” Battle said. “We just didn't have it, and that carried over for us making shots and defending. Credit them, they played hard. But we have to play better.”

A trip to Virginia Tech looms Sunday, and with two losses to BCS conference opponents already on Penn State's resume, the Lions are in dire need of a quality win.

Tuesday, they were happy to escape with a victory.

“I think the only positive is we won the game down the stretch, we didn't panic,” Battle said.

SHORT SHOTS

• Battle led PSU with 13 points and eight rebounds, and Brooks added 12 points and 13 boards.

• Woodyard made his first career start (in place of Jackson) and hit 3 of 4 shots for eight points.

Taran Buie came off the bench to make 4 of 7 shots for 10 points.

• Penn State was outscored in the paint, 26-22.

• The Lions managed only nine second-chance points on 13 offensive rebounds. Mount St. Mary's had 10 second-chance points on eight offensive rebounds.

• Trice was the only Mountaineer in doubles with 16.

• The Virginia Tech game tips at 1 p.m. It will be shown on CSN Washington. The Hokies are 4-4 with losses to Kansas State, UNLV, Purdue and Virginia.

• See the box score:


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