For the rest of the nation, the game was an eyesore. For the Nittany Lions, it was the Mona Lisa of victories.
Even though Penn State shot 33 percent from the field and scored a mere 22 points during the game's final 32:55, all that matters to the Nittany Lions is securing a victory that catapults them from the fringes of the at-large discussion to the heart of it. Double-digit non-league losses to Maine, Maryland and Ole Miss are warts on Penn State's resume, but the Nittany Lions (18-13) also boast two wins over Wisconsin and one apiece over Michigan State and Illinois.
The most amazing part of Penn State's semifinal run in the Big Ten tournament is that it's come with star guard Talor Battle enduring a two-game slump. Battle is 6-for-30 from the field and 4-for-16 from 3-point range, though he did lead the Nittany Lions on Friday with nine − yes, nine — points.
One of Battle's three field goals on Friday night was a critical 3-pointer that gave Penn State a 35-30 lead with just over 2:24 remaining. Wisconsin might have still been in striking distance in most games, but that was an insurmountable lead in this one.
Penn State now meets Michigan State, which itself went from bubble team to at-large lock with a victory over Purdue on Friday evening. Can the Nittany Lions join the Spartans? A victory on Saturday just might be enough.
- Penn State