Just like that, the season is over for the Penn State men’s and women’s basketball teams.
The Lady Lions lasted a round longer than the Nittany Lions, but in the end both teams were eliminated from the NCAA tournament recently.
In today’s edition of Morelli OnLion, we’ll take a look at how their seasons ended.
Let’s start with the men.
In a matchup that appeared to favor Penn State, the Nittany Lions suffered a first-round defeat to the Temple Owls. Juan Fernandez hit the game-winner with 0.4 seconds left to spoil the Nittany Lions’ first trip to the NCAA tournament in the Ed DeChellis Era.
Talor Battle hit a three-pointer to tie the game for the Lions, only to watch Fernandez end the Lions’ hopes of advancing to the second round.
“It’s horrible, but at the same time, you can’t hate Temple,” said Penn State guard Talor Battle. “They deserve to get where they’ve gotten. I have the utmost respect for those guys. It’s just a poor feeling. But it’s the same thing I said to the guys after the Ohio State game … someone has to lose. Unfortunately, it’s us.”
In the end, the Lions couldn’t finish, which has been a problem during the DeChellis Era. Although his squad played well in the Big Ten Tournament before losing to Ohio State, it couldn’t get the job done against the Owls.
Specifically, they couldn’t stop Fernandez, who poured in a season-high 23 points. The Lions needed to double-team Fernandez, but it didn’t happen. As a result, Battle’s career is over. As hard as it is to believe, Battle’s career ends with an 0-1 record in the tourney.
Once again, it’s time for DeChellis and Company to look ahead.
“I think we’ll be young. We’ll have guys that will be in some unfamiliar spots,” DeChellis said. “I think our recruiting class is going to be good for us.”
With Battle gone, it better be.
Lady Lions Go Down
After winning a first-round game in the NCAA Women’s Tournament, the Lady Lions suffered a second-round defeat at the hands of DePaul on Monday at the Bryce Jordan Center.
The Lady Lions led throughout, but couldn’t hold on down the stretch and fell to the Blue Demons, 75-73.
A couple of foul shots with 4.9 seconds left in the game proved to be the game-winner.
Penn State senior Julia Trogele had a chance to give the Lady Lions the lead with time winding down, but she missed a shot and DePaul took possession before the foul was called.
“I obviously missed the shot and they put the ball in their best player’s hands,” said Trogele. “She came off the screen and attacked. But it doesn’t come down to one play. Alex (Bentley) did what she had to do. It doesn’t come down to one play and it wasn’t her fault. In the end, we shouldn’t have let them come back.”
As she always has throughout her Penn State career, Trogele played her heart out. She poured in 26 points, but it wasn’t enough.
Penn State coach Coquese Washington kept things in perspective, though. She said that there were many positives to come out of the second-round loss.
“I couldn’t be more proud of our players,” Washington said. “I couldn’t be more proud of the Penn State family. This is why all these kids play here. This was a great game, a fun game to play. Unfortunately, someone has to come out on the losing end, and it was us. I don’t hope – I know – that we’ll be in more games like this, and I look forward to it.”
Amid the basketball teams getting bounced from the NCAA tournament, the Penn State wrestling team captured its first national championship since 1953 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia over the weekend.
Coach Cael Sanderson got the Nittany Lions to the promised land much faster than many expected.
“We want to win and we knew we could win, but you’ve got to go do it. You have to want it. You have to want it bad enough to overcome difficulties in matches and as a team. That’s what these guys did,” Sanderson said. “And they had fun. Really, that’s why this team won the national tournament. They were having fun out there. That’s what it’s all about.”
No one was having more fun than Bald Eagle Area High School grad Quentin Wright, who captured Penn State’s lone individual title.
“Quentin … it’s amazing. It’s just amazing what he was able to do,” Sanderson said. “We didn’t know what to do or how to help him other than believe in him. As a coach I think that’s one thing you overlook. It’s something I’ve had to get better at. You have to believe in kids, even before they can believe in themselves.”
Kind of amazing what happens when a team believes in its coach.
Chris Morelli is an award-winning writer/editor who lives in Centre County and covers Penn State athletics. He is also a regular on “Sports Central,” which airs on ESPN Radio in Altoona and State College. E-mail him at email@example.com. Also, be sure to check out Morelli OnLion on Facebook!