The Waiting Game Begins

Following an ugly Big Ten Tournament quarterfinal loss to Purdue, PSU must wait and hope for an NCAA bid.

Now all Penn State can do is wait and hope.

Having been perched on the NCAA Tournament bubble for the last few weeks, the Nittany Lions' regular season ended with a resounding thud in Indianapolis Friday night.

In a Big Ten Tournament quarterfinal, No. 3 seed Purdue pounded No. 6 PSU 79-65, sending the Nittany Lions back to Happy Valley with a 22-11 record.

And now, Ed DeChellis and his crew can only hope that they did enough before one of their worst showings of the year to warrant the program's first NCAA bid since 2001.

“What happens over the next 48 hours, we can't control now,” DeChellis said. “We've made our case. We've won big games. We have to let the chips fall where they may.”

Added senior forward Jamelle Cornley, who led the Lions with 20 points: “It's a situation where it is absolutely out of our hands, and that's the bad part of it from a player standpoint. … I wish there was something else we could do.”

This one was never close. Purdue bombed in 8 of 12 3-pointers in the first half to blow it open early. And when the Boilermakers were not hitting from long range, they were manhandling the Lions inside. The worst of it came when guard Chris Kramer got loose on a fastbreak and threw down an and-one jam over PSU center Andrew Jones, drawing a collective gasp from the partisan Conseco Fieldhouse crowd.

Purdue led by as many as 20 (41-21) in the first half and took a 51-35 lead into the locker room. PSU cut it to 12 (56-44) early in the second half before the Boilers scored 10 straight to end it.

“I thought Purdue played very well,” DeChellis said. “They shot the ball extremely well from 3. They had it going offensively and we didn't have any answers for them defensively.”

At points on the final 10 minutes, Penn State simply stopped playing defense, allowing Purdue uncontested layups. Lewis Jackson scored on two straight drives to make it 77-55 with 8:20 left.

The one Lion who competed with heart throughout was Cornley, whose 20 points and eight rebounds prevented the game from becoming a complete embarrassment.

“He has the heart of a lion and I love him dearly,” DeChellis said. “He wanted to leave it all out on the floor and I think he did.”

And so the waiting game begins. Cornley said he will not watch any basketball the next two days, but instead will wait until the selection show on CBS Sunday evening to see if PSU makes the tournament.

“I'll make myself sick,” he said when asked if he would follow news of the NCAA bubble.

On a positive note, Penn State is 3-1 against the RPI top 25 and has six wins against the RPI top 50. On the negative side, the Lions strength of schedule has been in the 90s and they flopped in a key conference tournament game.

“I think we have a great opportunity to be in the tournament,” DeChellis said.

But he'll have to wait and hope that it actually happens.

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