It's been 10 years since Penn State played in the NCAA Tournament, but with its 61-48 victory against Michigan State on Saturday afternoon in the Big Ten Tournament, the Nittany Lions might finally have reason to dust off their dancing shoes.
Following a 36-33 upset of Wisconsin in the tournament quarterfinals, many prognosticators, including ESPN.com's Joe Lunardi, had Penn State in the field of 68...but barely. Now, with a run to the championship, it looks like head coach Ed DeChellis and Co. are safely on the right side of the bubble for now.
Talor Battle, as he almost always does, led Penn State in scoring with 25 points on the afternoon. He was joined double figures, however, by an unlikely hero. Point guard Tim Frazier, a five point per game scorer during the regular season, went off for 22 points in his best game of the season. Jeff Brooks had eight points, David Jackson contributed four and Jermaine Marshall added two to round out Penn State's scoring.
Penn State trailed by as many as 10 in the first half, but a late run helped the Lions tie the Spartans at 26 heading into the break. After halftime, Battle came out on fire, drilling four 3-pointers in a roughly three-minute span to stake his team to a double digit lead. Sparty never recovered and Penn State held on for the crucial win.
The Lions dominated the stat sheet, outshooting the Spartans 42%-32% and outrebounding them 36-28. They also committed only six turnovers, allowing them to dominate the pace of the game and slow the pace to a point where the could hold on.
Now, Penn State has a chance to take its NCAA Tournament fate out of the selection committee's hands with a win against No. 1 Ohio State in the Big Ten Tournament championship game.