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March 17, 2011TUCSON, Ariz. - On the NCAA Tournament stage he's always craved, Penn State senior guard Talor Battle hit the clutch game-tying shot he was meant to take.
From six-feet past the arc, Battle squared up on the pass from point guard Tim Frazier to find himself remarkably wide open, trailing 64-61 with just 18 seconds to play. Owls' guard Juan Fernandez and Rahlir Jefferson closed on Battle, but they were too late.
The shot floated for what seemed like eternity, the Lions' Tournament lives on the line while Battle eased backward, knowing he had made the shot.
"I was going to shoot it from half court if I had to," Battle said. "I just kept backing up to wherever I was open, and I swear, I was open. I could care less where I was at. I can live with it if I missed the shot, walking out of here with my head high, but I think that's half the reason why I hit all of those crazy shots, because I believed.
"I had the ultimate confidence that I was going to make it. Even when I shot it, it was just so far and took forever to go in, but I was like, 'That's going in.' No one else knew. I looked to my left and I see Reggie Miller going crazy. That's the best shooter in the world, so that was just a great feeling.
"Then, obviously, they come down and hit a great shot, so credit to them."
The Owls' game-winning shot from Juan Fernandez put an early end to the Nittany Lions' first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2001, but certainly, can't dull the brilliant finish to Battle's brilliant career at Penn State.
To a man, the Nittany Lions all knew the shot was going in before it found the bottom of the net.
"As soon as the ball was swung to Tim and Talor came running at it, I knew he was taking the shot and I knew it was going down. I knew it. I just knew it," sophomore guard Cammeron Woodyard said.
"He's just a brave person. He has a lot of heart. I think it's a lot of heart and confidence. At the end of the day, there's a lot of guys that would shy away from taking that shot, and I'm really proud of Talor for taking it and making that shot."
Senior teammate David Jackson echoed Woodyard's thoughts.
"He's done it so many times before, that he's a very confident kid. He has a lot of confidence in his shot, and you know when it comes down to crunch time, he's going to make a play," Jackson said. "That's a big responsibility to have, but he's our leader and our captain, and we expected him to make it and he did."
Finishing his career with 2,213 points after the big shot, Battle leaves Penn State as the 10th-highest scorer in Big Ten history. His 23 points were enough for his 18th 20-point game of the year and 48th of his career, as well as his 32nd double-figure scoring game of the season and 109th of his career.
Yet, according to head coach Ed DeChellis, Battle's legacy will be defined by more than just the critical shots he made, of which DeChellis always expected the best.
"He's just a competitive person, and there's nobody else I want taking that shot other than him," DeChellis said. "When it left his hand, I knew it was in because he's made big shot after big shot throughout his career. But I'm most proud of him as a person. He's been a great ambassador for our university. He always does the right thing, whether it's on the floor, off the floor, weight room. He always does the right thing. You know, he will be very, very successful whatever he decides he wants to do.
"Obviously, basketball is in his future, but whenever that's over, whenever that may be, I've told him a thousand times you will be successful, whatever you want to do because you got some toughness, you got some heart."