By Arielle Sargent, GoPSUSPorts.com
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State men's basketball has returned home from the road, set to close out its 2017 home slate hosting Ohio State Tuesday night at the Bryce Jordan Center.
Tonight, the Nittany Lions are looking to snap a three-game skid, coming off of an 81-71 loss on the road at Minnesota before hitting the road again to close out the regular season at Iowa Sunday.
Despite the record though, the season's far from over for head coach Patrick Chambers, who noted the Nittany Lions will continue their relentless pursuit to get better at Penn State basketball.
"This is a vicious puzzle that I'm trying to put together for some synergy and some chemistry and to make sure we finish strong, but most importantly continue to get better," Chambers said.
Among the pieces of the puzzle, leading rebounder and shot-blocker Mike Watkins was noticeably absent for most Minnesota outing, grabbing four boards and blocking three shots in 16 minutes on the court against the Golden Gophers.
"Mike was in foul trouble," Chambers said. "According to our analytics, he was plus-9 in 16 minutes."
Watkins' presence is no doubt key to the Nittany Lion defense, changing everything on the court.
"Mike is the main point of our defense and when he's out it's clear to see that it's hard to get rebounds," Carr said. "It kind of makes you buckle down more to keep your guy in front of him just knowing that Mike is not there to save you at the end of the day," Carr said.
As Penn State looks toward its final two games of the season though, Chambers remains focused on finding just the right combination on the court, believing that the Nittany Lions will have to earn the right to a little bit of luck, especially in a few league games that narrowly slipped away.
"We have to
continue to get better and hopefully this thing, the ball starts bouncing our
way," Chamber said. "You earn the right to have those lucky bounces, you earn
the right to have a little bit of luck to come your way and right now we haven't
found that yet."
Tony Carr Being Tony Carr
Ever since Chambers entrusted Carr with a level of responsibility on par with his veteran captains, the freshman guard has continued to prove why he earned it. Noting that his confidence level is at an all time high, it's not hard see where the certainty is coming from.
Leading the team with 13.2 points per game, Carr is also atop the team standings in assists, having recently set the freshman record with 119 on the year. With at least 20 points in back-to-back games, Carr also dished out seven helpers in both outings.
"Just kind of figuring out the college game a little bit more, game by game and just finding where I can be effective at," Carr said. "Coaches helping me out and putting me in different places on the floor, at different positions at different times, I would definitely say I'm a very confident player right now."
For Carr, that confidence doesn't come with out extra preparation, as he mentioned taking time to watch film and really identify areas he can be more effective in a different way that most players might approach film study.
"It [watching film] has helped me just so I could figure out where I could get post ups on some guys who are smaller than me or where I can attack certain defenses off the pick and roll and how the big men react to certain moves and things like that," Carr said. "Just watching it and seeing where I can make the game easier for myself and where I can get easier shots."
on the Court
While Penn State won't have any seniors on the court at tipoff, the Nittany Lions will honor the contributions of their senior managers, who truly play an important role in the team's success.
"I have great relationships with those guys off the court and just being on the road with us, and begin basically everywhere with us, they're not managers, they're kind of part of the team and I'm sure it's going to a special night for them," Carr said.
More from Carr on the role the #PSUMBB managers play for the Nittany Lions.
What About WHOOP
A few weeks ago, Chambers noted that the team had incorporated WHOOP technology into training. A watch-like apparatus worn on the wrist, WHOOP tracks a variety of metrics to help athletes reach their top performance potential. For Mike Watkins, part of reaching his highest potential, means getting solid sleep.
"I dealt with it at first, just to test it out, but once you start realizing, 'oh I'm not getting enough sleep,' you see the difference in your performance from when you get enough sleep and when you don't get enough sleep," Watkins said.
That's made all the difference for Watkins, who went from a three-four-hour sleep schedule to around nine hours of sleep at night.
"I was all over the place without the WHOOP," Watkins said.
Reach Arielle at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow on Twitter @arielle_sargent