PSU Ruffles Hawks' Feathers

Nittany Lions rally from eight down with just over a minute to go to send St. Joe's packing and Phil Martelli into a post-game rant. In his first game back from injury, Geary Claxton's key blocked shot sealed the deal for Penn State. Read the story and hear what both coaches had to say after the game.

Down 60-52 with just over a minute to go, Penn State rallied to beat St. Joe's 65-61 at the Jordan Center Saturday afternoon. And to hear Hawk coach Phil Martelli's version of events, that was a result of his crew tightening up and/or the officiating crew blowing a call.

His feathers clearly ruffled in an emotional post-game press conference, Martelli did everything but give the Nittany Lions credit for pulling off an improbable win that improved their record to 4-1 while handing SJU (3-1) its first loss. And he didn't talk about the return from injury of PSU's Geary Claxton, whose blocked shot with less than three seconds to go sealed the deal.

“We got cheated at the end,” Martelli barked at one point.

Hear Phil Martelli's PC Here.
Note: There is some mild profanity in this audio file.

But Penn State's Ed DeChellis didn't seem to mind the apparent lack of respect one bit. In contrast to his counterpart, the Nittany Lion coach smiled and spoke quietly throughout his press conference, looking an awful lot like the proverbial cat that just swallowed the canary.

Or, in this case, the Lion that gobbled up the Hawk.

“I don't ever comment on officiating,” DeChellis said. “The guys have a hard job to do, they do the best they can. … I don't have much to say about officiating.”

Hear Ed DeChellis' PC Here.

Whether his team actually received the benefit of the doubt from the referees is open to debate. But the fact that the Lions showed great poise in the face of adversity is not.

The game was a statistical deadlock through the first 38-plus minutes in all departments but one: free-throw shooting. State was 7-17 at that point, St. Joe's 14-15. As such, the Hawks held what seemed to be a commanding 60-52 advantage.

But then the game turned on its head. PSU post Brandon Hassell was fouled with 1:04 left and made both ends to cut it to 60-54. From there, State pressed and fouled, and lucked out when D.J. Rivera and Jawan Carter each missed the front ends of one and ones. Lion guard Danny Morrissey made two freebies after the Rivera miss.

After the Carter miss, Morrissey received the ball on the wing, ball-faked to get Garrett Williamson in the air and nailed a 3-pointer to cut the lead to 60-59 with 37.4 seconds left. The Lions had attempted only nine triples against the aggressive St. Joe's defense to that point.

Hawk big man Ahmad Nivins then made one of two free throws and it was 61-59 with 35.5 showing.

Blasting his troops for going 1 of 4 on free throws in that stretch and for biting on the Morrissey fake, Martelli snarled, “That's a damn shame. That's a win that we gave away.”

His pain would only get worse. Ten seconds after Nivins' foul shots, Morrissey popped free 25 feet from the basket, straight on, and he fired. He joked that he called “bank” but it was drowned out by the crowd noise. Though it was not in the fashion he actually intended, the ball bounced high off the backboard and zipped through the net.

Martelli called it a “bull**** shot.” Penn State would later call it the game-winner, as it provided a 62-61 lead.

On its final possession, St. Joe's worked the ball to Nivins, an athletic 6-foot-9 center, and he shot from point-blank range. Claxton, playing with a small cast on his right hand to protect a healing break near the base of his pinkie, rejected the shot.

Though his legs were cramping after he lost nine pounds during the course of the game, PSU forward Jamelle Cornley grabbed his 10th rebound while falling to the floor. He was quickly tied up but PSU had the possession arrow and took over with 2.7 seconds left.

The game was over for all intents and purposes. But the fun was just beginning.

Lion guard Mooch Jackson was fouled quickly after PSU inbounded. As Jackson walked toward the free throw line, Martelli exploded on official Mike Sanzere and received a technical foul. His contention was that Cornley grabbed Nivins to prevent him from jumping on the Hawks' final shot, thus allowing Claxton to reject it.

Ben Luber made the two shots for the technical and Jackson hit one of two to account for the final margin. It was hardly the final word on the game, though.

“We just watched it on tape; he got fouled, he got fouled,” Martelli said of Nivins. “It's on tape, and the guy blew the call. … It was a guy who didn't do his job in the last five seconds and it's a damn shame. The kid got fouled.”

Cornley's thoughts on the play?

“I'm not going to say I didn't [foul], but I don't remember — honestly,” he explained.

Told of Martelli's rather vocal insistence that a foul was committed, Cornley shrugged his shoulders.

“It's over now,” he said.

GAME NOTE

• Claxton played five minutes in the first half and 14 in the second, and was on the floor during crunch time. He made 1 of 4 shots from the field, 4 of 6 free throws and obviously had the big block. He also had four turnovers, but said, “I feel good” after his first game action of the season.

• Cornley finished with a game-high 18 points but went 3 of 10 from the line.

• Next up for Penn State is the first road trip of the season, at Georgia Tech Tuesday. The game tips at 8 p.m.

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