Nittany Lions Headed to The Garden

Cornley shines as Penn State handles Florida on the road in NIT quarterfinal to earn a trip to New York.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Penn State is heading to Madison Square Garden.

The Nittany Lions, behind a monster effort from senior forward Jamelle Cornley, beat Florida 71-62 here Tuesday night to advance to the NIT semifinals.

After sitting out PSU's previous game (a home win over Rhode Island last Thursday) with a left shoulder injury, Cornley returned with a vengeance against the Gators. He finished with 23 points and 12 rebounds as the Nittany Lions improved to 25-11, matching their season record for wins.

“I can honestly say I wasn't 100 percent,” Cornley said. “But as a senior, you have to put your best foot forward.”

“We thought we could get the ball to [Cornley] and play inside-out,” Lion coach Ed DeChellis added. “I thought it was an advantage for us.”

Florida, which entered the game 18-1 at O'Connell Center this year, fell to 25-11.

Penn State gained control midway through the second half, grabbing a 52-43 lead on a Stanley Pringle 3-pointer. The Gators used a 9-1 run to make things interesting late, drawing within 61-59.

“We went sideways a couple of times, and they feed off the energy in the building,” DeChellis said of the Gators' full-court press and the O-Center, where Florida had lost only for non-conference games in the last nine years.

But the Lions responded by working the ball inside to Cornley, who muscled in a shot jumper. He dominated the paint all night. It sparked a 6-0 run that iced it.

Said Gator coach Bill Donavan: “I thought this was going to be one of the best teams we played all year. Cornley is a nasty competitor, and I mean that with all respect. He is the best player in the Big Ten.”

Pringle finished with 15 points and was 5 of 9 on triples. Leading scorer Talor Battle was only 4 of 13 from the floor and 1 of 8 from the arc, but came through with five assists and was 4 of 4 from the stripe down the stretch. Forward D.J. Jackson had one of his better games of the year, with 14 points and four boards.

Guard Erving Walker led the Gators with 16 points. Leading scorer Nick Calathes was not comfortable with State's physical style, and finished with only 10 points on 3-of-12 shooting.

Notre Dame and Kentucky square off in South Bend, Ind., Wednesday night for the right to face PSU in the NIT semis next Tuesday. The semifinal game is slated to tip at 9 p.m.

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