I’ll be the first to admit, I did not think we had a legitimate shot. Not on the road in South Bend with the famed ‘Touchdown Jesus’ smiling down. Not with Mike Watkins still relegated to street clothes, but TWO men down as sixth-man Nazeer Bostic faced a one-game suspension that put some major hurt on an already struggling bench. And, certainly not against the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame on St. Patrick’s Day! As much faith as I’ve had for our Penn State B-Ball squad since the calendar turned and 2018 began, all that put together seemed like way too much to overcome. Just goes to show how much I know, because today Lion eyes are smiling and Nittany Lion basketball is STILL climbing, one game away from a Final Four slot in the famed Madison Square Garden.
Yep, Penn State beat the top-seeded Irish yesterday on their own home court in the second-round of the NIT. Not only did we beat the Irish on St. Patty’s Day 73-63, but we beat them wire-to-wire, never tasting a deficit and in dominating fashion. Just two days after his all-time worst game in Blue and White, point guard Tony Carr turned in a masterful performance ending with 24 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists. Two days after saving his best for his final 3 minutes at the BJC versus Temple, sharpshooting senior Shep Garner hit 4 from downtown and kept the Irish on their heels all day. Two days after being what seemed like the only burst of energy on the court for Penn State in the first-round, Josh Reaves continued to be a spark plug by pouring in 18 and collecting 3 steals on defense. Yes my friends, just two days after such a lackluster performance at home, Penn State walked into hostile territory with their backs against the wall and stole that pot of gold right from under their Irish noses. Lion eyes are smiling indeed.
We won’t know our next opponent until late Sunday afternoon as Marquette and Oregon are scheduled for a 2:30 tip-off. The winner of that matchup gets the right to host Penn State at home on Tuesday night due to both being higher seeds at No. 2 and No. 3 respectively. Obviously, a trip to the Midwest would be far more preferred over one to the far corner of the country so here’s rooting for you Marquette. Either way, WE ARE still alive in the dance and considering all the upsets going on over there in March Madness, the argument becomes more justified that we should have been in that bracket instead. But that’s neither here nor there at this point. Get through the next round on Tuesday and the home court advantage returns to us and our huge fan base in the Big Apple.