Cornley Comes Up Big in Rally

Nittany Lions storm back against the Hawkeyes to improve to 16-5 on the year and 5-3 in the Big Ten.

Penn State guard Talor Battle was effusive in praising his teammate. Nittany Lion coach Ed DeChellis heaped compliment after compliment on his senior captain.

And Iowa coach Todd Lickliter just shook his head in amazement at the man who practically single-handedly led a comeback win over his Hawkeyes at the Jordan Center Saturday evening.

About the only person who wasn't blown away with the amazing play of PSU power forward Jamelle Cornley was … well … Jamelle Cornley.

“I'm a senior, I did what I was supposed to do,” Cornley said after scoring 24 points as State stormed back from a 13-point deficit with less than six minutes to go to beat the Hawkeyes, 63-59. “What I did tonight was my job. I don't look at it as any kind of heroic action. I did what I was supposed to do as a senior. You're supposed to leave everything out on the court. And that's what I did.”

“He put us on his back and carried us,” added Battle, who pitched in with 20 points and six assists.

Penn State improved to 16-5 overall with its third-straight win, marking its most victories in a season under DeChellis. More importantly, after entering the game tied for fourth in the Big Ten, the Lions boosted their conference record to 5-3.

Iowa fell to 12-8 and 2-5 after blowing a game it had all but sewn up.

Penn State's furious rally was something to behold, with Cornley dominating the paint and Battle heating up from the arc. The Lions outscored Iowa 20-5 in the final six minutes and 8-0 in the final 3:07.

“These kids find a way to win,” DeChellis said.

But the turning point occurred well before the closing rally. PSU was playing for its largest home crowd of the year, a raucous crew of 12,210 that crammed the lower bowl and spilled into the upper deck. And even after a lackluster opening 30 minutes in which the Lions trailed by as many as 14, the home fans stayed in the game.

With 9:40 left and Iowa up 47-38, PSU's Danny Morrissey missed a triple. In the scrum for the rebound the ball went out of bounds. Veteran official Ed Hightower said it went off Cornley, who protested. Eight seconds later, Cornley kicked the ball out of bounds while pressing. He took the occasion of the dead ball to give Hightower more lip.

“Hightower said something about, 'Just watch it,' ” Cornley recalled. “I said, 'Yes sir. I'm gonna make sure that I continue to do my job and you do yours.' Boom.”

Cornley was slapped with a technical foul. The crowd went nuts and stayed that way the rest of the game.

Even though the Hawkeyes got two made free throws (by Matt Gatens) and two more on the ensuing possession (by Jake Kelly) to push the lead to 51-38, Cornley made no apologies for being T'd up.

“That's what sparked me,” Cornley said. “I said, OK, if you want to give me a technical foul, I'm going to make sure my troops -- everyone in this building -- knows that we're gonna fight. And that's what they did.”

Asked if he was upset by the technical, DeChellis said, “No. He plays hard. He's an emotional kid. … It was just him being who he is, a competitive kid, and I'm not gonna take that fire away from him.”

Which was a good thing. Because from that point, Cornley was unstoppable. He consistently rooted out space deep in the paint and scored easily inside. He rebounded everything in sight. He passed to Battle for a 3-pointer.

He even hit a rare triple himself, drawing the Lions within 56-53 with 3:58 remaining and nearly exploding the roof off the building. Iowa led 59-55 when Jeff Peterson hit one of two free throws less than a minute later, and Cornley and company controlled everything from there.

Cornley powered inside to make it 59-57. Then Battle hit a second-chance 3-pointer to give PSU its first lead of the game, 60-59, at the 2:12 mark.

The Lions played lock-down defense in the final three minutes, which proved critical. Even though they missed the front end of two one and ones while up 62-59 in the last minute, Iowa was out of sorts on offense. PSU guard Stanley Pringle blocked Peterson's long 3-point attempt with less than five seconds to go to seal the win.

Lickliter, who as the coach at Butler four years ago recruited Cornley vigorously, was left to wonder what might have happened had he been successful back then.

“Oh, how I wish he would have gone there,” Lickliter said. “Now we have to face him all the time. … I have so much respect for Jamelle Cornley.”

SHORT SHOTS

• This is the fastest PSU has gotten to five league wins since opening at 6-1 in 1995-96.

• This is Penn State first three-game winning streak in the Big Ten since 2000-01.

• Only 11 players scored in the game, with the Lion bench outscoring the Hawkeye bench 3-0.

• Penn State is now off until next Sunday, when it travels to Michigan State.

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