Saturday, March 12, 2011

Battle Tested: Talor Guides PSU Past Spartans

Michigan State point guard Kalin Lucas ignited his team with their backs against the wall scoring 30-points, Friday, in an upset win over Purdue.

Less than 24-hours later, he was watching someone else rise to a similar challenge and breathe life into their own NCAA tournament hopes.

“He is a good player and when he gets going, he was on fire,” said Lucas of Penn State’s Talor Battle. “That’s definitely what changed the game.”

Battle scored a game-high 25-points in the Nittany Lions 61-48 win over the Spartans to advance to the Big Ten tournament final for the first time in school history.

“I think [MSU] solidified their spot [in the NCAA tournament] yesterday when they beat Purdue. We didn’t have anything solidified, so we just wanted to come out and play,” he said. “Our goal is to win this tournament regardless of if we think we are in after this win. So we are just competing and trying to win games.”

Early on, the Spartans appeared to catch the same fire they shot with against the Boilermakers the night before. They jumped out to an 11-2 lead against Penn State, but the Nittany Lions clawed back and pulled even to 26-26 at halftime.

The final 20-minutes belonged to Battle. He scored 14-straight Penn State points during one stretch, including four three-pointers in a row. Eventually the Nittany Lions pushed the lead to 15 and Michigan State never got back within single digits.

“I was zoned in,” said Battle. “I don’t think Michigan State did a bad job. They were contesting all of our shots. I just kind of got in the zone where I was really hot and just shooting the basketball and could care less who was in front of me.”

Penn State’s offense was just the cherry on top of another stout defensive performance. For the second straight game, they held their opponent under 50-points.

Michigan State shot 32-percent from the field and 34-percent from beyond the three-point arc. Lucas was held to 16-points on 5-of-12 shooting and the Spartans got just seven points off their bench compared to 22 against Purdue.

Guard Tim Frazier, who scored 22-points, said what the Nittany Lions do on the defensive side of the floor dictates if they will win the tournament title and how far they can potentially go in the NCAA tournament.

“We just keep playing defense and we just keep scoring and everything will just come with it,” he said.

The loss puts Michigan State back in waiting mode. At 19-14, they remain on the NCAA tournament bubble and in jeopardy of missing the dance for the first time in 14-seasons.

“Resumes speak for themselves and if we get in, we get in, if not, we don’t,” said forward Draymond Green.

“We’re not going to sit here and say ‘oh we should get in because of this, or we should get in because of that.’ I think we had some pretty good wins this yea,r so if that doesn’t take care of itself, then it just wasn’t meant for us to get in.”

Penn State can rest a little easier, at least about their NCAA tournament resume. But, they may be a little restless thinking about their next opponent, Ohio State.

The Buckeyes beat the Nittany Lions twice in the regular season, including on their home floor on Senior Night.

Battle said he hasn’t forgotten about how Ohio State ruined his final game in Happy Valley and wants nothing more than to give them some payback.

“They came in and whooped us up pretty good. Jon Diebler shot lights out, so we just want another opportunity to play them again,” he said. “We are just going to try to zone in and win a big game.”

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