Curtain raiser: Cornley aims for NCAAs at Penn St. Print
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Monday, 23 February 2009 14:07
NCAAB Headline News


 STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) -The black curtains dangling from the rafters at the Jordan Center to hide empty upper-deck seats at Penn State basketball games aggravated Jamelle Cornley.
He established some big goals early in his freshman season in 2005-06 - fill up the arena and help get the wayward program back to the NCAA tournament.
One goal down, one to go for the senior.
``From then on, I was just really confident, and really wanted to make sure that when I left here, the curtains were no longer up there,'' Cornley said Monday.
The curtains have been rolled up for the last two home games, as two of the largest crowds of the last couple of years have filed into the 15,000-plus seat Jordan Center. Penn State (19-8, 8-6 Big Ten) is having its best season since 2000-01 - the last time the Nittany Lions made the NCAAs.
ter-than-expected Big Ten, including an ugly 38-33 victory last week at then-No. 18 Illinois.
As if there wasn't enough pressure on Cornley this week.
He's headed back to his hometown of Columbus to play his last regular-season game at Ohio State. Relatives and friends are sending e-mail and text messages looking for tickets.
Anyone got 350 seats to spare Tuesday night at Value City Arena?
``Man, it has been tough to respond to all the e-mails and phone calls,'' Cornley said after letting out a sigh. ``With school and ball and rest, it's hard, it's difficult, but I try my hardest to get back to everybody.''
Cornley loves the pressure, though.
Short for a Division I power forward at 6-foot-5, Cornley makes up for any disadvantage with his strength. He weighs 240 pounds but can bench 370.
His energy in the post makes him look like the Energizer bunny. This year, he's added an outside shot to expand his repertoire. Cornley's 14.6 points per game are second on the team behind Talor Battle (17.3), the Big Ten's leading scorer.
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said he once thought it might be ``a stretch'' for Cornley to play at Penn State and the physical Big Ten coming out of high school.
``Boy, was I wrong,'' Izzo said. ``Cornley, I watched him just will wins with his shooting, his rebounding, his defense.''
before the opening tip, yelling, pumping his arms and slapping hands with the student section.
Off the court, third-year sophomore center Andrew Jones said Cornley joke around with teammates, trying to keep them loose.
``On the court, whether in practice or in games, the energy level is always high, trying to get the best of guys, trying to get guys work as hard as they can,'' Jones said.
Penn State's signature game this season came in a 72-68 upset at then-No. 9 Michigan State, one of the school's three wins over Top 25 teams this year. Cornley had 16 points and four rebounds in that game.
``He's become even more unselfish,'' Izzo said. ``So I didn't know how he would be as a guy coming out, but I sure have enjoyed watching him this year except when we played him because he's been at a different level.''
After a stretch of nine straight games scoring in double figures, Cornley has found it a little tougher to get points. He's scored in double digits just once in the last four, a 16-point effort at Purdue on Feb. 11.
Opponents appear to be paying more attention to Cornley down low. If that's the case, the Nittany Lions might be able to turn that to their advantage if Battle and fellow guards Stanley Pringle, Danny Morrissey and Chris Babb can nail outside jumpers.
ld give anxious fans reason to fill up the Jordan Center next year and keep the curtains raised for good.
``I can honestly say that I've left everything on the court,'' Cornley said. ``I've given this program and this university all I can give.''
 

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