Moment Slips Away From Lions

Penn State fights to the finish in NCAA thriller but Temple gets a last-second score to walk away with the victory.

<a href="" target="_new" title="%%MATCH_10%% edges PSU in thriller">Video: Temple edges PSU in thriller</a>

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Unfortunately for Penn State, the NCAA Tournament only has room for one shining moment per game.

And on a toasty St. Patrick's Day in the Arizona desert, with two Keystone State teams squaring off in the cozy confines of McKale Center, that lone moment was reserved for second-round opponent Temple.

Guard Juan Fernandez's duck-under leaner with less than a second left broke a late tie and allowed the No. 7 seed Owls to escape with a 66-64 victory. It was as devastating for the No. 10 seed Nittany Lions as it was exhilarating for the Temple players and the largely neutral crowd (most wearin' the green) that enjoyed a back-and-forth thriller.

“This is March, stuff happens,” said eighth-year PSU coach Ed DeChellis, who guided the Lions (19-15) to their first NCAA appearance since 2001. “Good for Temple. Bad for us.”

Penn State record-setting guard Talor Battle's -- whose 3-point bomb with 11.4 seconds left tied the game, drew a gasp from the crowd and prompted the TV crew (including former NBA star Reggie Miller) to raise their arms in disbelief -- may have summed it up even better.

“I guess it just wasn't in the cards when Juan Fernandez hits a shot like that,” Battle said.

“It is not like Penn State deserved to lose that game,” added Temple coach Fran Dunphy. “We just happened to win it. That's what so difficult about college athletics and this tournament, as well.”

Indeed, the second half was as good as it gets in early round NCAA Tournament action, with a dozen lead changes and five ties. Neither team would back down. Neither team could throw a knockout punch. Neither team folded, even in the face of difficult circumstances.

For the Nittany Lions, the primary challenge was overcoming the loss of standout forward Jeff Brooks, who played only nine minutes in the first half due to foul trouble and then missed the final 19 minutes of the game after dislocating his right shoulder for the second time this season.

“That got us a little sideways for a while, but that's not an excuse,” DeChellis said.

The Owls (26-7) had their own issue inside. Penn State big man Andrew Jones completely neutralized Temple All-Atlantic 10 center Lavoy Allen, who finished with one made basket and three points on the day.

Both team compensated with stellar guard play.

Battle's 3-pointer with 12:02 showing in the first half gave PSU a 20-11 lead, and a section of about 400 Lion fans across the way -- including former football standouts Michael Robinson and Bryant Johnson -- went nuts

But then Brooks picked up his second foul. And Fernandez went off (finishing the first half with 17 points). Brooks spent the rest of the half on the bench and by the time he returned, PSU trailed 35-33.

With State's most consistent scoring threat other than Battle on the pine, the Owls used a box-and-one defense on Battle and the Lions struggled to solve it.

Even with Brooks leaving early in the second half -- after blocking an Allen shot -- Penn State found its footing by slowing down Fernandez, keeping Allen off track and scrounging out baskets however it could.

Neither team led by more than four in the final 20 minutes.

Guard Ramone Moore heated up for the Owls, scoring 17 in the second half. PSU, meanwhile, was getting production from Frazier, forward David Jackson and Battle.

Moore's baseline jumper gave Temple a 62-61 lead with just under a minute left. Then Battle made a hard drive down the lane and was sent sprawling by Allen. He missed the shot and there was no call.

Frazier was forced to foul Fernandez with 28 seconds left and the Owl made both ends of a one and one to boost the lead to 64-61.

Then, somehow, Battle found himself open 28 feet from the basket, not far from the TV announcing crew. He launched the shot over a scrambling Rahlir Jefferon and it arched high into the air before swishing.

Miller, Kevin Harlan and Dan Bonner yelled and raised their hands, more in amazement than celebration. The crowd of 10,012 errupted.

“We knew what to expect from Talor Battle,” Moore said. Shots like that were part of the equation.

During a timeout, DeChellis considered unleashing a 1-3-1 defense for the first time all game. But he opted against it because the long-limbed Brooks was not able to go. The Owls might find an easy open shot in the corner, he reasoned to himself.

So instead, DeChellis said, “Hey, let's just try to guard them one time and see what happens.”

Dunphy, meanwhile, ultimately decided to take backup guard Khalif Wyatt's advice for the final play. Namely, give the ball to Fernandez.

The guard brought the ball up the floor. When he picked up his dribble, Frazier seemed to have him well covered. But Fernandez wheeled and, seeing nobody open, took the shot.

It fell.

Frazier tried to launch a three-quarters court shot before the buzzer but it hit the scoreboard hanging down from the ceiling.

The Owls celebrated. The Lions dejectedly walked back to their bench. After handshakes, Battle left the floor, his face buried in his jersey.

In the postgame press conference, it was clear he had been crying.

“I bet you one thing,” a red-eyed Battle said, “for the rest of our lives, we'll be able to watch the 2011 'One Shining Moment' (on CBS) and always have to see that shot.”


• Battle led Penn State with 23 points. Frazier had 15 and Jackson 14.

• Fernandez and Moore both had 23 for the Owls.

• Though he dislocated his shoulder on the clear block of an Allen shot, Brooks was not credited with a block in the game.

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