UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - From an emotional beginning to an emphatic ending, Penn State hoops entertained an energized crowd at the Bryce Jordan Center Saturday afternoon. In front of a season-high crowd clad in bright colors, Penn State defeated Rutgers marking its first back-to-back Big Ten win this year.
Coming off a thrilling road win at No. 13 Ohio State Thursday, even Chambers noted there was concern on his mind.
"Usually a win like that in that type of fashion against a top 15 team, especially Ohio State, You're worried about how we would respond," Chambers said. "You're worried about all the tweets and text messages, all that, getting in their head."
In the tale of two halves Saturday, what might have looked like Chambers' worst fear, turned out to be another step in the process.
Penn State and Rutgers kept it close in the first half until Tony Carr sent the Nittany Lions into the locker room with each of last five points in a 7-0 run for a 28-23 advantage. Despite foul trouble and shooting slumps, Penn State upgraded its defense to spark its second half offense.
"We really drew that line in the sand - and we were going get stops and I challenged this team the last two days about rebounding," Chambers said. "This is one of the best rebounding teams in the Big Ten, this is one of the best defensive teams in the Big Ten."
Penn State dominated the Scarlet Knights on the boards, out-rebounding Rutgers 42-27, with just two offensive grabs.
After holding Rutgers to 28.6 percent shooting in the first half, the Nittany Lions came out of the break with a 7-0 run to build a double figure lead that they would hardly relinquish before closing out the 60-43 win.
Bolstered once again by the energy of Josh Reaves' return, for him, the adjustment came down to communication.
"We were just communicating, talking, pointing, doing everything we could to help each other out," Reaves said. "They're a very good team, very physical team and we managed to get a win. They're a very big team with 7-footers coming off the bench and they play very well together."
Reaves was just one of three double figure scorers for the Nittany lions, finishing tied for second on the team with 15 points, adding four steals and a block. Carr led the way offensively for the Nittany Lions, scoring 16 points to go along with four assists.
Mike Watkins powered the defense with 15 points and 19 rebounds for his 10th double-double of the season. With 19 boards, Watkins grabbed the most rebounds for a Nittany Lion since Aaron Johnson had 21 against Northwestern on Jan. 15, 2005.
Postgame, while reflecting on the emotion of a successful THON game, Chambers was of course passionate about the cause, but it perhaps all became a little bit brighter in the outcome on the court.
"There's plenty of examples about a good win and then coming back and not being sharp, not having that mental toughness to be able to come back and play the same 40 minutes or I've been saying the full 200 minutes, collectively," Chambers said. "I'm not going to say it's a breakthrough, this is a process. We have to buy into this process, take it one day at a time, one step at a time."