|Penn State's 'Big 3' hope to shake up Big 10|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 23 January 2009 23:01|
Quick, disruptive guards Talor Battle and Stanley Pringle can push the ball on the break and hit outside shots. Energetic forward Jamelle Cornley provides inside scoring and senior leadership.
Their play has offered renewed hope to fans eager to see the Nittany Lions turn into winners.
``It's all about players, and I think we've elevated our talent level over the last couple years,'' coach Ed DeChellis said Friday. ``Every game does not have to be a grind figuring out who's going to score and figuring out who's going to guard who, just like it's been in the past.''
And there are still about six weeks left in the regular season.
Leading the way is Battle, with 18.4 points per game. The 5-foot-11 point guard can beat opponents by fearlessly driving the lane or hitting a 3-pointer.
A year's experience has made the sophomore a bit wiser and more accustomed to the rigors of a long season. He's learning from his roommate, Cornley, the 6-foot-5 senior (14.9 ppg) who uses his athleticism to help make up for his lack of height in the post.
Pringle (14.3 ppg) rounds out the Big Three, a lightning-quick senior guard who is a nice running mate to Battle in the backcourt.
Penn State is 11-0 when each member of the Big Three scores in double digits.
``I think their backcourt is as good as any in the conference,'' Michigan coach John Beilein said after Penn State easily beat the Wolverines, 73-58, earlier this week. ``There are three guys there that are high-level players.''
The Nittany Lions have been something of an afterthought in Big Ten basketball. There have been some big wins, though the program hasn't been consistent or talented enough to piece together winning seasons.
The last NCAA appearance came in 2001. The last NIT appearance came in 2006.
the time, forward Geary Claxton and Cornley.
DeChellis turned to Battle and three other freshmen - forwards Jeff Brooks and David Jackson, and center Andrew Jones - for major contributions. Pringle also came aboard as a junior college transfer.
Now, they're all key cogs in the rotation. Jones has especially improved in the paint, while senior guard Danny Morrissey can nail the open 3 and provide hustle and defense off the bench.
``Compared to last year, I can honestly say, I was hoping more than believing that we could come up with a win,'' Battle said. ``Every time we go in there, we believe we can win.''
It's far too early to start making postseason plans, with a tough schedule coming up in February that includes visits to ranked opponents Michigan State, Purdue and Illinois.
Plus, Penn State's postseason plans may be hindered by a comparatively weak non-conference slate. The early win at Georgia Tech may help, but the rest of the slate was dominated by home games against overmatched opponents.
Free-throw shooting is among the areas that need to improve. DeChellis called the team's 6-of-16 outing at the foul line against Michigan ``atrocious.''
Still, the Nittany Lions have managed to get off to one of the best starts in recent years and build up confidence.
Jamelle, Stanley, Danny'' do too, DeChellis said.
``It gets contagious.''