Penn State Basketball

Penn State basketball: What are program's most memorable postseason wins?

Penn State coach Pat Chambers holds up the NIT championship trophy after Penn State defeated Utah 82-66 in an NCAA college basketball game Thursday, March 29, 2018, in New York.
Penn State coach Pat Chambers holds up the NIT championship trophy after Penn State defeated Utah 82-66 in an NCAA college basketball game Thursday, March 29, 2018, in New York.

The Penn State men’s basketball team captured the NIT championship with a dominant performance in New York last week.

The Nittany Lions became the second team in program history to win the NIT after beating Utah in the title game. They’re looking to reach the NCAA tournament and add to Penn State’s history in the postseason next season. The Nittany Lions have been to the NCAA tournament nine times to go with their two NIT titles.

Here’s a look at some memorable postseason wins for the program:

March 13, 1954

NCAA tournament

Led by Jesse Arnelle, Penn State advanced to the Final Four with a 71-63 win over Notre Dame. Arnelle scored a game-high 22 points and Jack Sherry had 14 in Penn State’s win in Iowa City, Iowa. Penn State advanced to the Final Four in Kansas City and lost 69-54 to eventual national champion La Salle. Penn State beat Toledo and LSU in the tournament before its win over Notre Dame.

Notable: After the loss to La Salle, Penn State beat Southern California 70-61 in the third-place game. Arnelle had 25 points in that game. Tom Gola and La Salle captured the national championship with a 92-76 win over Bradley.

March 9, 1991

Atlantic 10 tournament

In Penn State’s final game in the Atlantic 10, the Nittany Lions beat George Washington 81-75 in the conference tournament championship game. The Nittany Lions were independent the following season before joining the Big Ten in 1992-93.

Notable: It was Penn State’s first conference championship in basketball and clinched its first NCAA tournament berth since 1965.

March 15, 1991

NCAA tournament

The No. 13-seed Nittany Lions upset No. 4-seed UCLA in the first round, beating the Bruins 74-69 in Syracuse, N.Y. James Barnes scored 19 points to pace the Nittany Lions, who trailed 36-32 at halftime. DeRon Hayes added 16 points for Penn State, while Monroe Brown finished with 10 points, 10 assists and six steals.

Notable: Coach Bruce Parkhill’s team lost to Eastern Michigan 71-68 in overtime in the second round. … The Nittany Lions returned to the NCAA tournament in 1996, falling to Arkansas 86-80 in the first round. The Big Ten tournament started in 1998.

March 9, 2001

Big Ten tournament

Penn State upset Michigan State 65-63 in the Big Ten tournament quarterfinals in what the Centre Daily Times called “the biggest win in the history of its men’s basketball program.”

“The No. 2 Spartans are the highest ranked team the Nittany Lions have ever beaten,” the CDT wrote. “The win almost assuredly locked up Penn State’s first NCAA tournament bid in five years.”

Joe Crispin drilled a 3-pointer with 21.9 seconds left to push Penn State ahead 63-59, highlighting a 22-point performance in Chicago.

March 18, 2001

NCAA tournament

The No. 7-seed Nittany Lions knocked off the No. 2-seed Tar Heels 82-74 in the second round to reach the Sweet 16. Joe Crispin and Titus Ivory each scored 21 points for the Nittany Lions, and Gyasi Cline-Heard had 19 points in the win in New Orleans. North Carolina’s Joseph Forte, who was an All-American and the ACC player of year, went 3 for 13 from the field and scored six points.

Notable: Penn State’s last trip to the round of 16 came in 1955, when the NCAA tournament included 24 teams and Bill Russell led San Francisco to the national championship. In the 65-team field in 2001, Penn State beat Providence in the first round to set up the matchup with North Carolina. The win over the Tar Heels is Penn State’s most recent in the NCAA tournament.

April 2, 2009


Penn State won its first NIT championship, beating Baylor 69-63 in the title game at Madison Square Garden. Jamelle Cornley led the way with 18 points and seven rebounds and earned NIT MVP honors. Talor Battle had 12 points and seven assists for the Nittany Lions, who set a program record with 27 wins.

March 11-12, 2011

Big Ten tournament

Penn State reached the Big Ten tournament championship game after earning a 36-33 win over No. 3-seed Wisconsin in the quarterfinals and picking up a 61-48 win over No. 7-seed Michigan State in the semifinals. The Nittany Lions lost to Ohio State in the conference title game, but they earned their first berth in the NCAA tournament since 2001.

Notable: Penn State went on to lose to Temple 66-64 in the NCAA tournament. Temple’s Juan Fernandez connected on a jump shot in the final second to lift his team to victory. Penn State’s Talor Battle had 23 points in the loss.

March 29, 2018


The Nittany Lions finished this season as NIT champions, rolling to a 75-60 win over Mississippi State in the semifinals and cruising past Utah 82-66 in the championship game. Penn State closed out the season with seven wins in its final eight games. Lamar Stevens scored 28 points in the title game and was named the NIT Most Outstanding Player, and Tony Carr had 15 points, 14 assists and nine rebounds against Utah.