UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lion basketball team (15-17, 6-12 Big Ten) kicks off the postseason on Wednesday inside the Bryce Jordan Center when it meets Hampton (18-12, 13-3 MEAC) in the first round of the CBI at 7 p.m.
Head coach Patrick Chambers and the Lions learned of their invite to the CBI late on Sunday night. The team is thrilled with the opportunity to extend its season into the latter stages of March, not to mention the chance to play in front of the home crowd on Wednesday.
"This is a chance for us to practice. This is a chance for the younger guys to play in a game," Chambers said. "I think there are so many positives for these players and this program. I was excited (when we found out)."
For the young Nittany Lions on the roster, the CBI presents a significant opportunity for more playing time and practice. Chambers talked on Monday afternoon about the benefits the extra practice will pay for the young players in the future.
"It's important for a young guy like me to have more experience in games and to get more practices," freshman Graham Woodward said. "Not being here as long as a lot of these guys, getting that extra run in, that extra practice time is really important."
The winner of the Penn State-Hampton game will meet the winner of the game between Stony Brook (23-10, 13-3 America East) and Siena (15-17, 11-9 MAAC). Get primed for the first round CBI game here.
VIDEO: CBI First Round Preview
Head coach Patrick Chambers, D.J. Newbill, Brandon Taylor and Graham Woodward preview Penn State's CBI first round game against Hampton.
Valuable Experience for Young Lions
There was never a doubt in Coach Chambers's mind about the positives the Nittany Lions could reap from postseason experience in the CBI. He saw it firsthand during the 2010 season when he led Boston University to the CBI semifinals against VCU. One year later, Boston earned a spot in the NCAA field, and VCU punched a ticket to the Final Four. The extra practice time and game experience is invaluable for the youth on the Penn State roster. That being said, Chambers noted on Monday that while he will approach every game in the postseason with the mindset of winning at all costs, he wants to get more playing time for the freshmen.
"I am going to mix things up a little bit," Chambers said. "I'm going to try and get the freshmen more minutes. I do want to play to win. Obviously, I'm very competitive. But we definitely need to get Geno (Thorpe) some more minutes and Graham (Woodward) some more minutes. I'd like to get Jordan (Dickerson) above 20 and see how he does. For Jordan and John Johnson, they have to really want to play (after) missing half the season."
New Season, New Style
After 19 rigorous games in the Big Ten, the Nittany Lions are excited about the chance to see a different style of play on Wednesday night in the Jordan Center. Penn State has not played a game out of conference since beating Mount St. Mary's, 92-82, on Dec. 22. Penn State averaged 81.1 points per game during the non-conference slate.
"I think it's going to be great to play (another style), although Hampton plays a similar style to Minnesota," Chambers said. "They aren't as big, but they are very quick, very fast and they want to score in the upper 70s. They play good defense...It will be good to get out of the league and see where we are and see where some of the younger kids are."
The Hampton Pirates finished second in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) with a 13-3 mark. Standing at 18-12 overall, the Pirates ended their regular season with a seven-game winning streak before falling the quarterfinals of the conference tournament to Coppin State. The Pirates led the MEAC in steals at 7.7 per game and blocks at 6.0 per game. Hampton averaged 73.2 points per game, while allowing 70.3 tallies per contest.
Individually, 6-foot-7 forward Du'Vaughn Maxwell led the Pirates in scoring (15.2 ppg), rebounding (7.5 ppg) and blocked shots (3.0 bpg). Maxwell, who ranks 14th in the NCAA in blocked shots, had more than half of Hampton's blocks in 2013-'14. Sophomore guard Deron Powers is the second Hampton player averaging double-figures at 11.6 tallies per game. Powers also led the team in assists at 4.1 per game. Fellow sophomore guard Brian Darden averages 10.0 points per game.
The Pirates have a deep bench. In all, 10 players average more than 13 minutes of playing time per game. Hampton held its opponents to 39.7 percent shooting from the field this season.
The Nittany Lions have never played Hampton.
Should the Nittany Lions advance on Wednesday, they would move on to face the winner of the Stony Brook-Siena game, which takes place at Siena on Tuesday at 7 p.m. The quarterfinals will take place on March 26. The tournament draw is then re-bracketed after the quarterfinals. The semifinals take place on March 28. The best-of-three championship series begins on March 31, with games two and three slated for April 2 and April 4.
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