Big Ten Tournament: Penn State tops Michigan State, advances to final
Penn State's Talor Battle drives against Michigan State's Mike Kebler during the semifinals of the Big Ten Men's Tournament at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis Saturday.
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INDIANAPOLIS -- Talor Battle has received numerous awards and set plenty of records during his career at Penn State.
Finally, the senior will have a chance to do what he considers most important -- win a championship.
Battle scored 17 of his 25 points in the second half to help Penn State defeat Michigan State 61-48 in the Big Ten tournament semifinals on Saturday and advance to the final for the first time. Penn State will play No. 1-ranked and top-seeded Ohio State on Sunday for an automatic NCAA tournament berth.
"Everyone can talk all day about their individual accolades, but I would trade all of those in to get into the NCAA tourney," Battle said. "A win tomorrow would be huge. I think we're playing well right now, and hopefully, we can keep that up tomorrow and really have a good outing and try to win this thing."
Battle made six 3-pointers, including four during a 2:35 stretch in the second half that put the Nittany Lions (19-13) in control for good.
"It wasn't until the second half that I really got going, and at that point, everyone kept screening for me and I felt like I couldn't miss," Battle said.
Kalin Lucas, who led Michigan State with 16 points, said Battle's barrage turned the game.
"In that span, he was just coming off screens fast and tight, and he hit, like three straight on Keith (Appling). Then I tried to take him, and same thing. He hit a real, real deep one on me. I had my hand in his face and all that. He is a good player, and when he gets going -- he was on fire. That's what changed the game."
Tim Frazier had 22 points, eight rebounds and six assists for the sixth-seeded Nittany Lions, who haven't reached the NCAA tournament since 2001.
Penn State coach Ed DeChellis believes that streak should end.
"Whatever happens, we need to be in the tournament," he said. "We've done the things that people said we needed to do and our RPI is great and our strength of schedule is one of the top seven in the country. I don't know who else you want us to play. But we've done all of the things that people have asked us to do."
Michigan State (19-14) has been to the past two Final Fours, but now, the Spartans must wait to see that their future holds.
"We've done enough to get us in, we've done enough to put us out," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. "If you look at our strength of schedule and all of those things, we've done enough to put us in. But if you look at a couple of bad losses ... I'm ready to accept what I have to accept. I'm saddened that we put ourselves in a position where we're not going to know anything until it comes out. That blame goes to nobody but us."
The Nittany Lions have allowed 45.3 points per game in their three tournament wins. Both Penn State and Michigan State agreed that the Spartans just missed shots in the second half.
Durrell Summers scored 11 points and Draymond Green added 10 for Michigan State, which shot 21 percent in the second half. The Spartans were coming off a 74-56 win over No. 9 Purdue on Friday, but looked flat at times against Penn State.
"I think our focus was the same," Lucas said. "I think we was ready to play this game. We had some letdowns, some droughts when they went on their run, and we couldn't hit layups or buy baskets."
The Spartans shot well early, just like they did against Purdue. Summers scored eight points in the first four minutes to help Michigan State take an 11-2 lead.
Penn State rallied, and a pair of fast break layups by Frazier tied the score at 21.
"I thought Michigan State came out of the gate very, very well and punched us pretty good," DeChellis said. "I though the positive thing for us was we were able to absorb it and get back into the thing."
A layup by Battle gave Penn State its first lead of the game, 23-21, with 2:20 left in the first half. After Michigan State's Derrick Nix tied the game again, Battle drained a 3-pointer as the shot clock expired to put his team up 26-23 with 48.9 seconds left in the half. Appling answered with a 3 with 11 seconds remaining to tie the score 26-all at halftime. Lucas had three points and four turnovers at the break.
Battle made back-to-back 3-pointers early in the second half during an 8-0 run that gave Penn State a 36-29 lead. Jeff Brooks' 3-pointer with 9:06 remaining gave Penn State a 49-35 lead, and the Nittany Lions remained in control from there.
Now, Michigan State must wait.
"That's not my position to worry about," Green said. "Resume speaks for itself, and if we get in, we get in, and if not, we don't. I think we had some pretty good wins this year. If that doesn't take care of itself, it just wasn't meant for us to get in."
First Published March 12, 2011 7:15 pm