- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 16, 2011

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.”

Allow the steady senior, who usually doesn’t smile much in front of the cameras, to grin a lot, like he did on Monday.

He earned it.

Meanwhile, DeChellis was still trying to work out the schedule for the trip. The Nittany Lions will return to practice Tuesday, and plan to arrive in Arizona later that night.

It’s just the kind of warm destination that will rejuvenate Battle. Thursday’s forecast for Tucson? Sunny with a high of 87 degrees.

Of course, the Nittany Lions will be indoors, at the McKale Center, playing in-state rival Temple for a chance to move on to a potential second-round game against No. 2 seed San Diego State.

“I was exhausted, not so much my body, but mentally,” he said. “When I get to Arizona, getting into that 85-degree weather and that sun … I’m looking forward to going out there.”

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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