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Penn State Ready to Punch Through

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For Penn State men's basketball, there's still plenty of hoops to be played. With Monday's unfavorable result now well in the past, the Nittany Lions have had time to rest up and recover ahead of Saturday's mid-afternoon road game at Northwestern.

Embarking on its first road trip since a close 4-point loss at Indiana 10 days ago, the Nittany Lions will play three of their next four games away from Happy Valley. Despite splitting back-to-back overtime games since the trip to Bloomington, the subsequent ups and downs are all part of the process for Penn State head coach Chambers.

"I know nobody wants to hear about the process but it's getting a little bit more consistent, it's growing up a little bit more each game, each possession, each set back," Chambers said. 

"Watching film, breaking it down, getting back to work today, getting back to practice, these guys are going to come in with great energy."

Energy is exactly the way to define the last time Penn State and Northwestern met, with the Nittany Lions sending an enthusiastic crowd at the Bryce Jordan Center home buzzing from a 78-63 win against the Wildcats.

That victory also kicked off a blazing scoring stretch for sophomore Lamar Stevens, who totaled a career-high 30 points in the victory. In the month of January alone, Stevens is averaging nearly 21 points per game, shooting 57.1 percent from the field.

Although Chambers noted Stevens was a bit on the mend this week, he mentioned the staff would opt to be smart about his practice schedule leading up to gameday.

Penn State will hardly have the luxury of rinse and repeat game plan though, as Chambers noted Northwestern has made some significant changes to what the Nittany Lions will see come Saturday at Allstate Arena.

"Northwestern has changed the way they play," Chambers said. "They're playing zone now. They played some one-three-one, some zone, some two-two-one, so since our game they had played all man-to-man all year long, since that game, they have completely changed, offensively, they style of play."

As Chambers also noted, Penn State has seen success against zone this year, pointing to a 77-73 win on the road at Iowa in the conference opener in early December.

Penn State never trailed in the victory against the Hawkeyes, with double-digit scoring from different Nittany Lions, led by a 22-point performance from Stevens.

Including the win against the Wildcats Penn State is 2-2 in its last games, all part of some necessary adversity in the overall growing process. Among those games, two were decided by four points or less. If tough times don't last and tough people do though, that's exactly what the Nittany Lions are embracing headed into a road-heavy January finale.

"I just think we need to go through the tough times to be able to come out on the other side," Chambers said. "We're still in control of our destiny. We control it still. There's plenty of basketball left and we believe that we're in great position. We're in every game."

For Chambers and the team, it's clear success is well within reach, but the learning lessons are meant for the Nittany Lions to endure together.

"We're close. We're right there. We're growing, we're learning, we're right there, we're right where we need to be," Chambers said. "We just need to get guys healthy and we have to punch through."

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