Penn State Nittany Lions Roaring for Respect

Brandon SeitzCorrespondent IJanuary 27, 2009

Some things never change.

Some things happen because they're supposed to, and some things happen out of luck.

Some things turn out better the second time around.

That's the storyline of this year's Penn State men's basketball team, searching for its first NCAA Tournament bid since 2001.

Despite the fast start, placing Penn State fifth in the Big Ten conference standings, Nittany Nation can't help but look back to last year's season that ended with a 15-16 record.

With such a huge first half start, no one saw the sub-par record coming until a season-ending ACL injury to star guard Geary Claxton and a constant string of injuries to upper-classman Jamelle Cornley.

The Nittany Lions finished the season starting four freshmen.

But now, with a 5-3 record in the Big Ten, those young starters are beginning to look like seasoned players with rising levels of confidence and poise.

Penn State's last game against Iowa featured a 14-point comeback with 11:38 remaining in the game.

Cornley and Talor Battle both stepped up big and scored 26 of the last 30 points for the Lions. This included a three-point shot from Cornley with four minutes to play that cut Iowa's lead to 56-53.

"Down the stretch, [Penn State] was extremely efficient," Iowa head coach Todd Lickliter said. "A couple of shots they missed, they went and got them back."

Battle, the Big Ten's leading scorer, finished with 20 points.

The win allowed Penn State to break the 15-win plateau for the first time in head coach Ed DeChellis' six seasons at the helm. This is the Nittany Lions' best start in conference play since the team's 1999 season.

This season finally features a group of players who can not only score, but can consistently pick each other up in times of trouble and make any game competitive.

That's a whole lot different from the Penn State basketball teams of years past. The leadership roles among the players create a great sense of team chemistry on the court.

Look for Battle and Cornley to make Penn State contenders in the Big Ten this year.