UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State men's basketball returns home from a heavy road stretch to host Iowa Saturday at 6 p.m. in the Bryce Jordan Center.
It's been two months to the day since the last time the Nittany Lions and the Hawkeyes met with Penn State opening the early part of the Big Ten schedule with a 77-73 win on the road in Iowa City.
Following a mid-week Big Ten road loss at Michigan State, Penn State's Tony Carr met with members of the media for an update ahead of the first of two consecutive home outings, with Maryland set to visit Wednesday, Feb. 7 for a 6:30 p.m. tip.
From the Spartans to budding confidence and belief, it's the Friday hoops five to kick off another stacked Penn State weekend in Happy Valley.
Home Sweet Home
On the heels of its largest home crowd since 2011, Penn State has settled into some home court advantage this year. On the season, 11 of Penn State's 15 total wins have come at home, with the Nittany Lions owning an 11-3 mark in the Bryce Jordan Center.
With seven games left in the regular season, including four at home, Penn State already has the most home wins since the 2010-11 season when the Nittany Lions went 13-5.
Penn State led by as many as 12, but came up short after the Spartans used a second-half surge to clip a two-game Nittany Lion winning streak.
"They made shots," Carr said. "We were dealing with some foul trouble, some guys were out for an extended period of time but they made a great run that we couldn't withstand that led them to a win."
Although the Spartans were ultimately boosted by a 52-point second half, Penn State will have to find a way to halt a big second half Saturday. Iowa enters the matchup having scored at least 50 points or more in the final frame five times this year, including each of the last two games - most notably with a 57-point second half in its most recent win against Minnesota.
The Hardest Days
Earlier this week, Penn State head coach Patrick Chambers noted that the hardest days are January to February. Much like he said prior to the trip to East Lansing, things can still go a lot of different directions for the Nittany Lions. If there's anything from his pre-Michigan State presser though, it's that staying present and making small steps toward getting better have to be the focus down the stretch.
"I think our 'why' is to keep getting better, to be the best team that we can be by the end of the year," Chambers said. "These kids came here and they took a chance on us and they wanted to come here together to do something special."
Chambers also noted early this week that there's a clear belief among the Nittany Lions when it comes to truly believing in one another on any given night. It's something Carr has also seen develop since he arrived on campus for his freshman year last season.
"I've definitely seen the belief develop," Carr said. "We all go through the trials and tribulations together and we all know what it feels like to be down and we know what it feels like to be up and we know what it takes to win these games now. Coach is just on us every day about being consistent and having that same energy and effort and hopefully that leads us to winning games."
Finishing it Out
With seven games remaining in the regular season, Carr noted the mentality right now is right where it needs to be, knowing that the ability to compete with anybody no matter the location is engrained in the mindset.
To close it though, for Carr, it's going to take some mental toughness.
"I would say, we just have to be mentally strong," Carr said. "We go on the road and we're here and some night shots might not be falling, some nights the whistle may be against us. We just have to stay mentally strong through it all. The crowds get loud on the road, teams make runs, so I would just say that mental part of it."