Prior to Saturday's game against Indiana at the Jordan Center, he enjoyed a standing ovation, a handshake and hug from head coach Ed DeChellis, and then a long, emotional embrace with his mom.
During the game, he hit the final two shots, including a baby hook that gave Penn State a 59-58 lead and a dunk that accounted for the final score, 61-58.
And after the closer-than-expected victory, he addressed the near-capacity throng of 15,035 that stuffed the BJC. It was PSU's largest home crowd since 2001.
I want to thank you for your support and I hope you continue to support YOUR team, Cornley said.
On this night, however, it was clearly his team. Perched precariously on the NCAA Tournament bubble, Penn State hardly played its best game against a Hoosier outfit that had lost six straight coming in. And for a while, it looked like the Lions might lose and see their bubble explode.
But Cornley, with an assist (literally and figuratively) from sophomore guard Talor Battle, practically willed State (20-9, 9-7) to a win.
We have guys who are willing to step up and make big plays, especially 'Mel, DeChellis said. He got the big shot and that's a fitting thing for him.
Two big shots, actually.
Down 58-57 with less than two minutes to play, Cornley backed his way into the paint and powered in the baby hook to give Penn State its first lead (59-58) since the 6:15 mark.
IU's Devan Dumes drove at the other end, but his attempted dish to big man Tom Pritchard was batted by Battle, who had to scramble to keep the ball from going out of bounds. He saved it to Cornley, and State called timeout with 1:23 remaining.
DeChellis drew up a play where Battle would have the option of going off one of two high-post screens. He broke for the hoop as the shot clock was winding down, spinning in the lane and finding himself with an open -- but off-balance -- 4-footer.
I was so scared to shoot because I thought I was gonna miss, Battle said. Good thing 'Mel went to go crash for a rebound. I just snuck it right into him.
The 6-5 Cornley hammered home the dunk with one hand for a 61-58 lead with 56 seconds left.
Battle fouled Hoosier guard Verdell Jones with 41 seconds left, but Jones badly missed the front end of a one-and-one. In the fight for the ball, it went out of bounds off Penn State.
Following multiple timeouts, the IU offense was out of sorts against a Lion defense that constantly switched to prevent a 3-pointer. Deadeye Matt Roth forced a bomb with eight seconds left but PSU forward D.J. Jackson was right in his face. The Hoosiers grabbed the long rebound and quickly tried to find Roth again.
He forced another deep shot -- this time with Cornley in his grill -- that came up short just before the buzzer.
IU fell to 6-13 and 1-15 with its seventh straight defeat. So it is difficult to believe that all of the PSU fans showed up to see the spectacle that is Hoosier hoops, as they did back when Bob Knight was doing his thing in Bloomington.
This time, they were there to see the Nittany Lions. And although it wasn't pretty -- State went 7 of 17 from the line, had only 12 assists on 24 baskets and trailed by four with less than five minutes left -- everyone went home happy.
Especially the guy who had the big Senior Night.
That's crazy. That's CRAY-ZY, Cornley said of the crowd. To hear that noise and try to talk to the players; I'm screaming at the top of my lungs and I have to grab them. That energy is something I've been waiting to hear and waiting to feel for a long time.
Battle paced PSU with 16 points, eight rebounds and two assists. Cornley has 10 points and four boards.
Other seniors honored before the game were Stanley Pringle (10 points, three assists), Danny Morrissey (five points, two assists) and Will Leiner (two points, two assists). All started. Leiner, a former walk-on, drew a standing ovation when he drove to the hole for an early layup.
Dumes and Jones both had 16 for IU, which did not make a basket in the final 5:26.
Next up for Penn State is a home game with Illinois Thursday. The game tips at 9 p.m. and can be seen on ESPN.