Nitts Knock Off Notre Dame in NIT

NEW YORK – First possession of the night, Notre Dame star Luke Harangody caught the ball on the left block, and with Penn State's Andrew Jones whispering sweet nothings in his ear, spun into the lane. And missed.

It was the first of seven straight blanks fired by Harangody, who entered Tuesday night's NIT semifinal against the Nittany Lions averaging 23.5 points a game.

He would finish with 17 on this night (not to mention 10 rebounds), but shot just 5-for-16.

So if you want to look for reasons as to why PSU (26-11) beat the Fighting Irish 67-59 – and why they will face Baylor (24-14) for the title on Thursday at 7 p.m. -- you can start right there, with the matchup between Harangody, the well-decorated senior forward, and Jones, his still-finding-himself sophomore counterpart.

It was, coach Ed DeChellis said, "the best defensive game Drew's played in a long time without fouling."

And without much help. The Lions, respectful of the Irish's long-range marksmen, Kyle McAlarney and Ryan Ayers, double-teamed Harangody only occasionally – "just enough," DeChellis said, "to throw him off-rhythm."

Jones had no trouble finding his. He scored 16 points and claimed 15 rebounds, both career highs. And about that defense ...

"Honestly," he said, "I just moved my feet and tried to contest all his shots."

The other thing was this: "Early on, some of them didn't fall. Usually he makes those, the flip-up kind of shots. But they didn't fall today."

DeChellis, who made note of those uncharacteristic misses himself, told Jones to make sure Harangody shot over him, limit him to one shot and try to avoid fouling.

Jones, who committed just two personals, did all of the above. And the Lions, spurred on by 20 busloads of fans (as well as Joe Paterno), built early leads of 11-2, 20-8 and 29-10.

Sophomore point guard Talor Battle, an Albany native making his first Garden appearance, scored 12 of his 17 points and handed out three of his five assists while playing the role of Energizer Bunny in the first half, in no small part because the crowd included, by his estimate, some 60 family members.

"It was fun," he said. "I knew I had a lot of people from home down here. ... It kind of felt like a high school game. I fed off the energy early, maybe too much, because I got tired and my adrenaline was rushing too much. I got fatigued quick, and I needed a breather."

Senior forward Jamelle Cornley picked up the slack in the second half, when he scored 13 of his 15 points. The two biggest came with 3:41 left, after the Irish had cut a 49-30 deficit to 51-47, on two free throws by Harangody.

As had been the case late in the Florida game, the 6-5 Cornley then scored in the post over a taller man – in this case, 6-9 Zach Hillesland – to stop the bleeding. Penn State would then build the lead back to 66-54 in the closing minute.

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