COLUMBUS, OHIO -- As fans start to fill up the remaining empty seats inside Value City Arena before Ohio State's 73-59 win over Penn State Tuesday night, a large, stout man gazes off at the corner of a row filled with Columbus, Ohio, natives draped in blue and white.
Here to watch his son play at home one last time, Hank Cornley --- along with about 50 friends and family members --- clap, scream and stand throughout the evening, hoping to will the Nittany Lion power forward to his first ever win against the Buckeyes, the team that never offered Jamelle a scholarship despite dominating the courts in its backyard nearly from birth.
From the beginning, his section behind the Penn State bench makes its presence known. The boos that emanate from the other 18,170 fans when Jamelle's name is announced in the starting lineups are slowly drowned out by the screaming from Dorcella Smith, Jamelle's mother.
"Nothing but respect," Hank says of his son's reception. "Every Ohio State fan I run into knows he should be here --- the numbers speak for themselves. But it's their loss."
The sentiment rings true on Penn State's opening possession with two points from the muscular Jamelle, whose stature and physique is eclipsed only by his burly father.
"Let's go Big Time!" Hank shouts.
But the Lions quickly fall behind, as a flurry of Buckeye jumpshots put the home team ahead 10-2 by the under-16 timeout.
6-foot-5 Jamelle has been guarding Evan Turner, a front-runner for Big Ten player of the year who has two inches on the Penn State senior captain.
A calm Hank, however, isn't fazed.
"I'm sure he asked to guard him," he says of his son's matchup. "I told him a long time ago, 'Big time players want to play the best.' "
But out of the break, Ohio State continues its roll, building a 19-2 lead less than eight minutes into a game that has all the makings of a rout.
On the opposite end of Hank's row sits Pamela Cornley, trying to control herself with her nephew's squad in trouble.
"I'm shaking," she says, "this is my first college game."
Penn State responds with a run of its own, erasing an early deficit and taking the lead when Jamelle catches a blocked Chris Babb shot attempt and lays it in to put his team up 23-22.
A few possessions later, he hits a jump-hook from the baseline and it's 25-23 in favor of the Lions.
Several members of the Cornley crew rise to their feet and gesture forward flicks of their wrists --- "Count it!"
Jamelle's fans are ubiquitos, as evidenced by the shout of "C'mon Jamelle!" from the upper deck amid an otherwise silent gym with 2:08 to go in the first half and the hometown hero at the foul line.
His family and friends can only laugh uncontrollably at the noises and mimicking coming from the nearby Buckeye student section, as it mocks the regularly boisterous Penn State player.
As the teams head for the locker rooms at halftime with Ohio State up two, Idris Lawrence stands up from the first row behind the Lion bench.
A childhood friend of Jamelle's, the Ohio University cornerback brought his mother to watch the kid he grew up return to his city just one more time.
Lawrence, who insists he hates the Buckeyes despite his location, is here to support his friend.
"I think 'Mel wanted to what everyone expected him to do," he says, "and that's be a leader."
And as Jamelle leads his team onto the court for the second half, Zombie Nation, normally a Penn State fan-favorite, echoes throughout the arena and gets the home fans energized.
Jamelle's family, of course, adds the "We-Are-Penn-State!" chants between the chorus.
With the first 10 minutes of the half remaining back-and-forth, Danny Morrissey, a Cleveland native, hits a 3 to put Penn State up 49-48 and get his small band of supporters screaming side-by-side with the Cornley clan.
Jamelle's family remains audible throughout, from a back-and-forth of "Air-ball!" and "Corn-ley!" between the opposing fans as he shoots free throws, to a questionable foul whistled on him. It was called by none other than Ed Hightower, an official who has given Jamelle a pair of technical fouls this season and who Hank says "T'd up" the elder Cornley during his playing days at Illinois State.
A chorus of boos are even heard from behind the Penn State bench trying to outdo the rest of the section's "H" chant as "O-H, I-O!" echoes throughout the arena in an orderly yet rambunctious fashion.
But whatever they say or do won't be enough tonight, as the Lion offense stalls down the stretch and the Buckeyes take over.
When Jon Diebler's 3-pointer makes it 70-55 with under two minutes left, members of Jamelle's crowd can only shake and scratch their heads, almost assured their boy will graduate without ever beating his home school.
But Hank isn't worried.
"He'll be disappointed," he says. "But there's still the Big Ten tournament, so maybe there's another chance."
As the players and coaches shake hands after the final horn, Ohio State coach Thad Matta hugs Jamelle and whispers a few words in his ear.
"I'm proud of what he's done ... had they ever beaten us he would never have been allowed back in here," Matta quips. "I always like to see the Ohio guys do well."
Meanwhile, the Ohio guy has just one more thing to do before leaving for school --- although he's not sure exactly how long it will take him.
"I don't know off of my head," Jamelle says of the number of supporters, "but I got a room down a couple feet away from me and I'm about to find out."