The first Penn State Nittany Lions team to make the NCAA Tournament lost to the same program that ended their last trip ten years ago — the Temple Owls. This time around though, Penn State was in it the whole way and came one possession short of sending it to overtime. Temple’s Juan Fernandez hit a 17-footer with 0.4 seconds left to win the game. Talor Battle, one of the best three Penn State basketball players ever, had just made a long-distance 3-pointer to tie the game. Reggie Miller, who was providing color commentary for TNT, was impressed. However, it was the previous Penn State possession that set up the disappointment. Battle was stuffed and Temple responded with a bucket.
Penn State played 75% of the game without its second-best player, Jeff Brooks. After getting a second foul, Brooks sat out the second part of the first half. Early in the second half, Brooks dislocated his shoulder blocking a shot, an injury that had proved costly earlier in the season as well. Without Brooks, the Nittany Lions could not win, though they came close.
The Nittany Lions played valiantly and left everything on the court. It was a big step for the program, but is hopefully the beginning of a renaissance of Happy Valley hoops. A tournament invitation can’t be realistically expected annually, but within 3 seasons, probably 2 actually, this program needs to be back in the tournament.