Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Centre Daily Previews Cornell at Penn State




The Nittany Lions trotted into the locker room at halftime Sunday with a three-point lead over a one-win Mount St. Mary’s team. Penn State had shot 35 percent from the field in the half and had done little to indicate it was ready to shake off the Mountaineers.Head coach Patrick Chambers, as he usually does, had some words for his players.“He told us that it wasn’t over,” senior guard Cammeron Woodyard said. “We had to come out and play Penn State basketball. Stick to our habits.”The Nittany Lions displayed better habits in the second half, pulling away for a 29-point win over a hapless team and establishing some momentum heading into tonight’s 7:30 p.m. non-conference season finale against Cornell in the Bryce Jordan Center.As they prepare for a Big Red team that has been showing some signs of life after a wretched start that included losses to Buffalo, Delaware and American, the Nittany Lions (7-5) hope to continue to do what they did in the second half against Mount St. Mary’s — play solid, intense defense regardless of how they’re scoring the ball. “Making or missing shots shouldn’t dictate your effort,” Chambers said following Sunday’s win. “We tried to get them to fight through that.” Inspired at least in part by the halftime pep talk, the Nittany Lions picked up their defense in Sunday’s second half. The Mountaineers collected seven field goals and 11 turnovers in the final 20 minutes. “Five guys rush to the ball, play team defense,” junior forward Billy Oliver said. “That’s a big thing for us.” The defense led to more offensive opportunities; Penn State scored 20 points off turnovers in the second half, when it made 18 of 27 shots. “We have to continue that path of earning the right to make shots and out-working teams,” Chambers said. Since a two-point home loss to American on Nov. 27, Cornell (4-5) has won a pair of overtime games (against Lehigh and Albany) and lost by only four points to No. 25 Illinois — Cornell led by two with less than three minutes remaining — in Champaign on Monday. Senior guard Drew Ferry paces the Big Red with 14 points per game, and 6-foot-9 junior forward Josh Figini averages 9.7 and has averaged 13 points over his last three games. Rebounding has been a problem for Cornell, which has had a margin of minus-8 on the boards this season. The Big Red average nine steals per game, though, and had seven against Illinois.

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