NEW YORK -- Exiting the media room following the Baylor-San Diego State tilt to open the NIT semifinals doubleheader, the cheers from the arena above made the tunnel feel more like a corridor in the Bryce Jordan Center.
The Penn State pep band played "Seven Nation Army" and students and fans sang along as opening tip neared. "We are...Penn State!" chants broke out in the concourse and even Joe Paterno took his seat behind the Nittany Lions' bench.
Four teams took the floor in Madison Square Garden Tuesday night, but it became clear early on the historic arena belonged to Penn State for the evening.
A sea of white shirts spread across the Garden and up into the rafters and a mass of Penn State students stayed standing throughout the game in the corners and behind a basket.
The Fighting Irish fan turnout was small but respectable, but it looked miniscule compared to Penn State's.
The Jordan Center made great strides in developing its atmosphere this season, and although the noise levels of the March 5 Illinois game will be remembered by fans for a long time, I don't know if I have ever been more impressed with Penn State basketball fans than Tuesday night in Manhattan.
Remember when Penn State football fans took over Dolphin Stadium at the 2006 Orange Bowl?
Maybe it was on a smaller scale, but that's what it felt like at the Garden.
While Notre Dame has become accustomed to playing at MSG with games against St. John's and in the Big East tournament, the Penn State team and its fans made the most of their unusual opportunity.
A furious Notre Dame rally in the final stages of the game brought the Irish faithful to life. But even as the game hit the under-four-minute media timeout, the chairs in the courtside press row literally shook as the band cranked out "Zombie Nation" and the fans jumped along.
With the disappointment of the NCAA tournament snub long past, everyone made the most out of being one of the final teams in the nation still playing at this point in the season.
And instead of being forced to make a cross-country trek to a place like Boise, Idaho, or Portland, Ore., for the NCAA tournament's opening weekend, Penn State fans will happily be able to make the short journey back to Manhattan for the NIT finals against Baylor Thursday.
Penn State basketball in April? Yeah, it might not compare to playing in the actual Final Four this weekend, but kudos to the team and the fans for making the most of the experience and taking over the city.