STATE COLLEGE, PA. (AP) - For one week at least, Happy Valley is Hoops Valley.
Penn State may still have its share of doubters, but getting into the NCAA tournament for a first-round game in Arizona makes it easier for the road-weary Nittany Lions.
Sprinkled among the well wishes and congratulations on campus Monday from classmates to forward Jeff Brooks were a handful of shocked or angry students.
Like it or not, 10th-seeded Penn State will play No. 7 Temple on Thursday in a West region game in Tucson, Ariz.
“I’ve seem some people say, you guys don’t deserve this, and I was like, ‘Then why do you go this school’,” Brooks said to laughs at a news conference.
Nearby, an exhausted Talor Battle, recovering from four games in four days, planted his forehead on his hand and chuckled with a wide grin.
Monday, the Nittany Lions rested.
They’ve played in “one-and-done” mode for several weeks now, even before the exhausting yet fruitful four-game run to the Big Ten tournament title game Sunday that cemented their first bid to the NCAAs since 2001. The top-ranked Buckeyes beat Penn State 71-60 for the conference championship.
Still, coach Ed DeChellis had other designs for Monday on the plane ride home from Indianapolis. He wanted to practice, though he put it up for a vote to the rest of his coaching staff.
DeChellis lost 5-1 with the head coach the only one in favor of practicing. Finally, a day off the court for the players _ though he’s not going to ease up on them too much.
“I tell them the time to rest is in April and May,” DeChellis said. “Sure, they’ve played a few games in a few days, but let’s move on. Toughen up and move on. … I’m ready to go. The staff had to talk me out of practicing today.”
These are heady times for Penn State basketball, a program which often has a hard time escaping the shadows of coach Joe Paterno’s football program.
Those Lions, by the way, start spring practice this week.
Yet there’s been nary a mention of football around town the past couple days.
“It’s sweet,” said Battle, the school’s career leading scorer. “It’s super sweet.”