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2014-'15 Men's Hoops Blog - Penn State at Michigan State

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VIDEO: Shootaround Preview with Brian Daly

EAST LANSING, Mich. - Welcome to's live, interactive coverage of the 2014-'15 men's basketball season. Tonight, the Nittany Lions travel to the Breslin Center to take on Michigan State.

Live Blog 2014-'15 Men's Hoops Blog - Penn State at Michigan State

VIDEO: Shootaround Preview at Michigan State

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EAST LANSING, Mich. - previews Wednesday's 7 p.m. tip at Michigan State with associate head coach Brian Daly. Break down the game here.

VIDEO: This Week in Penn State Wrestling - Jan. 20

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - catches up with junior Morgan McIntosh (197 pounds) leading up to Penn State's match against Minnesota (Sunday at 2 p.m. in Rec Hall).

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

By Miranda Kulp, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With just a little less than a month left until the first game of the 2015 season, the Penn State softball team is entering the final stages of preseason prep before traveling to Boca Raton, Fla. for its first tournament of the year.

With a mix of new and returning players training since the fall, the Lions are determined to improve and are entering the season with high intensity throughout every workout.

Returning for her second year as head coach, Amanda Lehotak is ready to hit the ground running. She is preparing the team for the new season and new chance to make a splash in the Big Ten.

"I'm always eager to start a new season," said head coach Amanda Lehotak. "We were really impressed with the team's work ethic this fall and I can already start to see some major improvements in some of our weaker areas last year."

Last year the Lions went 14-35 overall, but instead of dwelling on the wins and losses the team is using them to its advantage and learning from past mistakes to grow.

"I think this group is capable of doing great things," Lehotak said. "We have a good batch of fresh talent being guided by our returning players. Already they've shown a constant willingness to work hard and improve during the preseason and I'm looking forward to see that intensity continue."

This year, the Lions will be welcoming six new players, five freshmen as well as a junior transfer. Mia Monopoli is expected to compete for playing time behind the plate and is looking forward to opening day.

"I'm more excited than anything to start the season," said Monopoli. "I mean there are obviously some nerves but I can't wait for the games to start.
We've been preparing since the beginning of the school year so it's crazy thinking the season is this close to officially starting."

While some of the players are entering their first season as Nittany Lions, others are returning to Beard Field ready for another slate of games.

Among the group of returning players ready to grow from last season is senior pitcher Marissa Diescher.

"I think this year is going to be a big year for the program," said Diescher. "We have a lot of talent this year and I'm excited to see how everything meshes together once we start the season. I'm looking forward to proving ourselves this year since last year didn't end exactly the way we were hoping it would."

The Lions will be starting the season on the road in California, Florida, Mississippi and Texas. The team won't be playing at Beard Field until March 18.

"We intend on giving it our all this season and really proving ourselves," said
Diescher. "Whether it's in a tournament or individual game we want to always play our best."

Although the season doesn't officially start until Feb. 6, the players have been getting both physically and mentally ready for months.

"The thing about being an athlete is you always want to get better both personally and as a team so we never really stop training," said Diescher. "My goal this season is to improve my individual game and help my team win as much as I can."

As the start of the season approaches, both the coaching staff and the players are staying focused and keeping intensity levels up during training and using last year's upset for motivation.

"As a coach, our biggest thing is to put the team in the best position to succeed," said Lehotak. "We see great potential these players and want to make sure we're providing them with the proper training and confidence to play at their best."

Lions Remain Confident Heading to Michigan State

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Having been on the brink of its first Big Ten win for the past two weeks, the Nittany Lion basketball team (12-6, 0-5 Big Ten) team heads on the road for a Wednesday night (7 p.m. on BTN) tilt against Michigan State (12-6, 3-2 Big Ten).

After a heartbreaking loss to Purdue on Sunday in overtime, the Nittany Lions can't help but think about how close they are to getting over the hump in Big Ten play. The Lions have played in four-straight games that were one-possession contests in the final three minutes of play. Despite coming up short in all four, the mindset and confidence level for head coach Patrick Chambers does not change because he knows how competitive the team has been.

"I believe in what we are doing," Chambers said. "I have great faith in what we are doing. Our record, it doesn't indicate how good we are playing. We are playing well in the Big Ten. We are still 12-6, but in the Big Ten it doesn't indicate some of the good things we are doing. I believe in this process, and I know it's a process. It's going to take time to get it where I want it to be."

Penn State's record isn't indicative of how close the team is to a much different start to conference play. However, the Lions know that it's time to pick themselves up off the mat and find a way to win. Chambers often talks about earning the right to make the winning plays. Simply put the Lions just need a ball or two to bounce their way to get the results they have been so close to achieving.

"The other teams in the league are going to go through these rough patches (like us)," Chambers said. "The Big Ten is a gauntlet. It challenges you mentally and physically on a nightly basis. And we know, right now that we are going to be in one-possession games every night. The strong mentally survive, and they get through the rough patches."

The key to Penn State's success from here hinges on the defensive end of the floor. Chambers wants to see more consistent high-level effort on the defensive end of the floor for 40 minutes. It's imperative to compete on defense and on the glass possession by possession in conference play, and the players know what type of effort it takes to win.

"We shouldn't have to turn on and turn off our effort," Taylor said. "It's just something that we should be used to doing. We need to (play with that effort and attitude) no matter if it's the first half, second half or overtime...We are not changing anything. We are going to continue to do the things that we have been doing, but focus on defense a little more and our rotations. We are focused on Michigan State and getting ready for a battle against a great Big Ten team."

The Spartans enter the game with a 3-2 record in Big Ten play and a 12-6 mark overall. Michigan State suffered a 75-59 setback at Maryland over the weekend. The Maryland loss snapped a three-game winning streak for MSU, which included triumphs over Northwestern (84-77), Iowa (75-61) and Indiana (70-50). The Spartans lead the Big Ten in 3-point percentage at 40.1. Additionally, MSU enters the game as the conference's top rebounding team (+7.3 per game) and assists leader (18.0 per game).

Junior guard Denzel Valentine leads three Michigan State players in double-figures. Valentine, who is averaging 13.9 ppg while shooting 45 percent from the floor and 44 percent from the foul line, has led Michigan State in scoring on seven different occasions this season. Senior guard Travis Trice is averaging 13.8 tallies per game. Trice also leads the team in assists with 6.1 per game. Senior forward Branden Dawson is averaging 11.5 points and a Big Ten-leading 9.5 rebounds per game.

The Nittany Lions will only play Michigan State once this year. Wednesday's game marks Penn State's 18th game in East Lansing. The Lions are 4-13 all-time at MSU.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

By Tyler Feldman, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Junior goaltender Celine Whitlinger stopped 53 shots over the course of two games to help lead Penn State (12-9-3, 7-4-1 CHA) to a series sweep of conference foe RIT (8-14-3, 2-9-1 CHA) this past weekend at Pegula Ice Arena.

In Saturday's matinee, Whitlinger kicked away 27 bullets to push the Nittany Lions to victory, 2-1. Then, in Sunday afternoon's contest, Whitlinger posted 26 saves to preserve the win, 3-1.

"Celine was so efficient, so poised, so square all weekend long," said head coach Josh Brandwene. "I'm tremendously proud of her. It's all about her effort and it's all about the great job she's doing."

Freshman defenseman Bella Sutton, who had two goals and an assist on the weekend, echoed the words of her head coach.

"Having Celine back there is a huge weight off my shoulders just knowing we have great goalies behind us, so I'm just doing whatever I can to help her out and make sure I can block any shots that she can't see," said Sutton.

In game one, both teams skated out to strong starts. Despite a scoreless first period, the Nittany Lions outshot the Tigers, 12-8, and were on the doorstep of finding the back of the net.

After a misdirected shot by RIT's Jess Paton trickled past the left pad of Whitlinger 2:22 into the second period, Shannon Yoxheimer's power play goal tied things up at the 8:04 mark. Yoxheimer beautifully redirected Sutton's shot from the point to bury the biscuit.

"I love the work and the growth that both of our power play units continue to put in," said Brandwene. "I thought we had great looks on even the power plays that we had before. We broke through and scored, so we had great puck movement, great communication. And again, you got a good low shot from Bella and Shannon perfectly placed in front of the net."

Just over two minutes had ticked off the clock following Yoxheimer's goal when a wrist shot from Sutton atop the right wing circle provided the Nittany Lions with the game-winning goal.

"I got the puck at the point, and really I was just trying to throw it on net," said Sutton. "My teammates did a good job of screening and getting me that puck, so I just threw it on net and hoped for the best."

The Blue and White carried momentum into game two, as Laura Bowman netted her second shorthanded goal of the season at the 8:49 mark in the second period.

"Honestly, I was trying to go for a pad pass, but it ended up hitting the inside of [Binnington's] pad," said Bowman who has 12 goals on the season. "She does have a pretty open five-hole."

Sutton continued her "offensively-minded defenseman" mentality into the second game. The Shoreview, Minn., native gave Penn State a 2-0 lead when, on the power play, she fired a shot from the point through traffic past RIT's net minder, Ali Binnington.

"There was traffic in I just got a nice shot through, hoping to get one on the net for my teammates to tip in or rebound in," said Sutton.

RIT cut the lead in half at the 12:31 mark in the third period when Cassie Clayton scored her second goal of the season. However, junior forward Hannah Hoenshell put the fans at ease just over a minute later when she found the back of the net for her fourth tally of the year to give the Blue and White a two-goal lead.

"Just from this weekend we know that when we stick to our game plan and everyone is doing their job that we will get the results we want as long as we're working 110 percent every shift," said Sutton.

The key for Penn State over the weekend was special teams play. The Tigers finished 0-for-9 on the power play, while the Nittany Lions managed to score two power play and one short-handed goal.

"Our team really prides ourselves on our special teams," said Bowman. "We have one of the best percentages in the league. Sometimes we actually get excited for the power play and penalty kill."

With the two triumphs, Penn State notched its second home series sweep of the season

"It feels great," said Sutton when asked about the series sweep. "It's really cool that our hard work is paying off, but we have to look forward to the next weekend. Enjoy this, but be ready to work hard this week to prepare for next weekend."

The Nittany Lions will look to extend their two-game winning streak next weekend, Jan. 23-24, as they travel to New Hampshire for their final two non-conference games of the season.





By Darrell Hill, Student-Athlete Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The rust is off and just like that we're off to our second track meet of the season. Coming off of last weeks Penn State Relays I felt like our team had a strong showing and showed a lot more confidence than this point last year. This weeks practice was a lot more upbeat and the team really seemed to be very dialed in spite of starting our first week of spring semester classes. Pre-meet preparation was capped off by a wonderful team dinner prepared by Rotelli's. It was great to sit down and eat with the team and coaches and take our mind off the meet for a while and really enjoy each other's company.

The atmosphere on meet day here at Penn State is always great. We've practiced against each other for so long that anytime we can get a couple teams in here to compete with the intensity is always high and leads to great performances. We had a number of huge performances this past weekend but our triple jumpers Steve Waithe and Brian Leap really led the way. As I was warming up for the shot put I happened to look over and see Steve jump 52ft on his first jump, and at that point I knew exactly what type of day this was going to be. 

This week off will be great for training and to get some people healthy, but I cannot wait for Penn State National for another opportunity to wear the Blue & White! Go State. 

Bailey, Holstrom, Goodwin Lead the Way for the Lions

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By Julie Bacanskas, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Scoring five of Penn State's seven goals this weekend, Casey Bailey, Taylor Holstrom and David Goodwin have proven themselves as a force to reckon with for the Nittany Lions. The three have been dominant all year, and they are determined to keep the ball rolling.

Their weekend success led the team to a 2-2 tie and a 5-2 victory against Michigan State, securing the Lions a first place spot in the Big Ten standings.

On Friday, Goodwin produced a third period, tying goal with the help of Bailey and Holstrom to force overtime and later a shootout. Although the Lions (11-7-3, 5-2-1-0 B1G) ultimately fell to the Spartans (7-11-2, 1-3-2-2 B1G) in the shootout, the team rallied back in the second matchup, erasing any doubts about its hunger to win.

The three forwards notched four goals on Saturday with two from Bailey, one from Goodwin and one from Holstrom.

"I thought they could have had a few more," head coach Guy Gadowsky said of the line following Saturday's win. "What'd they have, four I think? Boy, I thought they could have had a few more. They just seem to be clicking. I thought they all worked very hard tonight."

The three have consistently been playing their best hockey. They know what to expect from each other, but most of all they love putting the puck on net. The results are merely a product of their constant efforts.

Bailey is currently tied for second in the nation with 16 goals scored, which has given him much recognition. Nevertheless, he believes his success is a product of the chemistry he has with his linemates. His achievements are directly related to the work he, Holstrom and Goodwin put in on a daily basis.

"It's definitely not me doing all the work," Bailey said. "I think if you look at a lot of my goals, kind of like the empty netter right there, without these two guys battling, without the whole team, the defense are involved as well. So it's definitely a team credit."

Also a major factor in Saturday's victory was goaltender Matthew Skoff, who came up with 28 saves. His play sparked the team's confidence, and his performance marked a big bounce back after his previous two starts.

The junior's comfort in the net only grew as he watched the team's top line steal the show.

"These guys have clicked since the beginning of last year," said Skoff. "It's fun to watch, and I know when they're on the ice it's something where I can enjoy watching what they do in the other end. Obviously, they've been scoring so it helps whoever is in the net out."

Bailey, Holstrom and Goodwin are looking to continue their success, especially in Big Ten play. They are ready to face whatever challenges opposing teams throw their way.

"Certainly they're on a roll right now," Gadowsky said of the forwards. "All three of them seem to have synergy with each other. All three of them are working very, very hard away from the puck, and I think that's sort of started by Taylor Holstrom right from day one of training camp. He set a real high standard, real high bar in terms of work ethic, and I think those two have matched his work ethic. I think you're seeing really good things happen."

With their success, including the line's impressive showing against Michigan State, comes some jokes and friendly competition, which only makes playing together more fun for the three.  

"Goodwin was telling me I stole it from him," said Bailey when discussing his second goal on Saturday. "But I just think I'm a little hungrier than him."

"I'm just doing what I can," Goodwin joked back, "to not let Casey Bailey outscore me at this homestand."

Hammond and Brown Kick Start Second Half Shutout of Purdue

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10702047.jpegBy Matt Allibone, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The past four seasons, the back half of the Penn State wrestling team's lineup has always been considered a murderer's row of talent.

While there are some new faces in those spots this year, the production level hasn't dropped off much. Against Purdue on Sunday, that became apparent quickly.

Going into halftime down 9-6 to the Boilermakers, the Nittany Lions got a huge boost their upper weight wrestlers, who won five-straight matches to clinch a 26-9 victory.

Sparking the comeback were two wrestlers with very different experience levels, freshman Garett Hammond and senior and two-time All-American Matt Brown.

"Obviously, we needed a little more fire," head coach Cael Sanderson said. "So these guys [Brown and Hammond] came out and got things turned around a little bit for us. Again, Purdue wrestled hard."

After no wrestler managed to score 10 or more points in the first five bouts of the afternoon, Hammond changed the tempo with a high-scoring 16-11 win over Pat Robinson and Brown followed it up with a pin over Chad Welch, which turned the three-point deficit into a 15-9 lead.

In the 165-pound match, Hammond held off Robinson in an exciting bout that featured a combined six takedowns, three reversals and a near fall.

Despite falling behind 2-0 in the opening minute of the first period, the freshman battled back with a quick escape and takedown, then added a reversal and near fall for an 8-4 lead at the end of one. He would later score another takedown and reversal in what was the highest scoring bout of the afternoon.

The win capped an impressive weekend for the Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, native, who earned a 13-4 major decision on Friday against Nick Visicaro of Rutgers.

"I wanted to wrestle well, and there's 10 guys so just trying to do my part and wrestle hard," Hammond said. "We wrestled a lot, we had two matches last weekend and two matches this weekend so I was a little sore and a little tired but there's a lot of guys and lot of fans that support you so you just want to go out there and I just wanted to wrestle hard and score as many times as I could."

Now 18-7 on the year and 4-4 in dual meets, Hammond has made steady improvements during his first year in the starting lineup.

Still, Hammond knows there is plenty of work for him to do. While his shot taking and offensive moves were on point Sunday, he is determined to improve his defense so he can limit the number of takedowns against him.

"There was a lot of points scored [today] and I wanted to keep wrestling, but there's a lot of things I need to work on, Hammond said. "I feel like effort-wise I was doing okay, but just cleaning up and making a little more focus on top. It's good when I'm getting reversals, but when I'm getting reversed it's not good."

Brown on the other hand, wasted little time securing his victory. The Penn State captain brought Welch to the mat for a quick 2-0 lead and immediately went to work securing the fall, which he completed just 1:21 into the first period.

It was the seventh pin of the season for Brown, who has now scored 40 dual points for the Nittany Lions this season while giving up just three.

Brown, who will be looking to secure his third All-American honor and first individual national title in March, knows his responsibility as the team's most seasoned veteran. With the score tied 9-9 when he took the mat, the 174-pounder gave his team the boost of energy it needed.

"Yeah I definitely would say there is a little bit of urgency," Brown said. "Not pressure, but urgency. I was trying to ride hard on top, trying to score near fall, and then [the pin] kind of fell into my lap. I was riding him tough and I was able to see that."

From that point, Matt McCutcheon, Morgan McIntosh and Jimmy Lawson took care of their matches at 184, 197 and 285, respectively. In a match that was tightly contested through five bouts, it was a much-welcomed finish.

"I thought [Brown's win] was big, you heard the crowd, it was huge," Sanderson said. "You gotta love Rec Hall, it's an amazing place to compete and you don't have to do much to get people fired up. You know, you really just have to score some points, go get a pin. Really, it's a competitor's dream, it doesn't get any better than that and Matt took advantage of that." 

VIDEO: Wrestling Post-Match vs. Purdue

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lion wrestling team (8-1, 4-1 Big Ten) won all five matches following intermission to pull away from Purdue for a 26-9 victory over Purdue in Rec Hall on Sunday.

Matt Brown's pin at 174 pounds and Morgan McIntosh's technical fall victory headlined Penn State's surge after halftime. Check out some highlights from Sunday's match and hear from head coach Cael Sanderson, Brown and Garett Hammond after the match.