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Nittany Lions' Valiant Effort Comes Up Short at Big Ten Tournament

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11774053.jpegVIDEO: Locker Room Interviews from the Big Ten Tournament

INDIANAPOLIS - It's been said time and time again about a Patrick Chambers-led Penn State team, but with the way Thursday's Big Ten Tournament second round matchup against Ohio State transpired, it needs to be said again.

The Nittany Lions (16-16) left every ounce of effort they had in the tank on the Bankers Life Fieldhouse floor in a 79-75 setback to seventh-seeded Ohio State (20-12). Penn State has nothing to hang its hat about following another resilient showing during the stretch run of the 2015-16 season.

The result is not what anyone in the emotional locker room had hoped for, but the groundwork has been laid for what is going to be a bright future for a men's hoops program on the rise.

Penn State played its best basketball during the last five weeks of the season, which included four victories in its last five home games and seven total conference wins for only the fifth time since 2000. That stretch culminated with a battle in Indianapolis.

"I'm proud of my team this year, the way they competed, the way they stuck together," said Chambers. "Our schedule wasn't easy, especially the first 10. And they were a determined bunch. I really, really enjoyed coaching this group. And they showed you today why. Ohio State looked like they were going to take it and run away with it. We came right back and threw a couple of punches and took the lead. That's what this team did for most of the year. They just kept punching back."

Thursday night's game was one of runs. The Nittany Lions built a 35-25 lead in the first half thanks to hot shooting from the perimeter. The Lions started 7-for-11 from distance and jetted out to a double-digit edge.

However, the complexion of the game changed in the final four minutes of the first half when Ohio State closed on a 9-2 run to set the halftime score at 37-34, in favor of the Lions.

Brandon Taylor scored the opening bucket of the second half, but then the Buckeyes rattled off the next 14 points to claim a nine-point lead. Penn State clawed back to within three, but the Buckeyes pushed the margin back to nine with 11:55 to play (56-47).

The Lions were far from done.

They roared back in the form of a 20-10 rally en route to re-taking the lead at 67-66 on two Shep Garner free throws at the 4:12 mark.

That would be the high point of the half, though; as the Buckeyes scored the next seven points and never looked back on the way to the four-point victory.

Garner was the star of the night for the Nittany Lions, pouring in 25 points on just 16 shot attempts (9-16). The sophomore guard was aggressive on both ends of the floor and willed the Lions for much of the night with his relentless approach. Garner scored or assisted on 14 of Penn State's 26 made field goals.

"(Shep) deserves a lot of the credit," Chambers said. "He is top 15 in a lot of categories in the Big Ten, and nobody talks about him...Just shows you what kind of leader we have for our future in Shep Garner. Not only did he do that, but look at the game he had. Played terrific. He almost played 40 minutes."

You can't begin to talk about the growth Garner and his fellow young teammates made this season without talking about the men who guided them. Garner said that the team learned a lot about how to compete in games and what type of work ethic it takes to be successful in the Big Ten. He attributed all of that to Taylor and the senior class.

"They taught me so much. In the two years I have been here, I've learned so much from Devin (Foster) all the way up to BT," said Garner. "I appreciate them. They came in to practice and set the tone every day. They worked so hard. They work so hard for us. Everything that they put into this program, I just wanted to come out here and give it my best fight. Just came up short."

Taylor is a guy fans can be proud of for the way he battled. When he arrived on campus, no one could have envisioned the type of player he would become. Penn State would not have earned its first bye at the Big Ten Tournament, won 16 games two-straight seasons or seven conference games this season without his leadership. There was not a night on the schedule where Taylor didn't pour his heart and soul into the betterment of the program.

"He has left an imprint on this program, much like D.J. (Newbill) and Tim (Frazier)," said Chambers. "His leadership in the locker room was second to none. Terrific. That was our biggest concern coming into this year, who is going to be our leaders? We had a leadership council. But he emerged and he wanted the torch; he wanted to lead. A little bit uncharacteristic of him. And he came out of his comfort zone and did it anyway, and he became a terrific leader."

The future of Penn State men's basketball is on the upswing, and a huge piece of that can be attributed to this year's senior class and especially the effort and determination of Taylor.

"I just hope that guys are able to say that I taught them (how to compete) and that I helped them grow," Taylor said. "That's all I wanted to do for my last year. The wins really didn't matter. I just wanted to help everybody else behind me grow and get better."

Taylor left his mark, and the program is in good hands thanks to the type of foundation he laid.

Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

VIDEO: Big Ten Tournament Postgame Player Interviews vs. Ohio State

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INDIANAPOLIS - Head into the locker room following Penn State's 79-75 setback to Ohio State to hear from several Nittany Lions following a valiant effort inside Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Thursday. The Nittany Lions battled back from nine down in the second half to claim a one-point lead before a late surge from Ohio State.

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Men's Hoops Gameday 2015-16 - Penn State vs. Ohio State (3/10/16)

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INDIANAPOLIS - Welcome to live coverage of the 2015-16 Nittany Lion basketball season. The Nittany Lions open play at the Big Ten Tournament against Ohio State.

Live Blog Men's Hoops Gameday 2015-16 - Penn State vs. Ohio State (3/10/16)

Men's Hoops Big Ten Tourney Central - Lions Open Tourney vs. Buckeyes

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Big Ten Tournament Game Blog - Penn State vs. Ohio State

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - A new season begins for the Nittany Lion basketball team when the ball is tipped inside Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis on Thursday at 6:30 p.m.

11766789.jpegThe 10th-seeded Nittany Lions (16-15, 7-11 Big Ten) will meet seventh-seeded Ohio State (19-12, 11-7 Big Ten) in the second round of the 2016 Big Ten Tournament (ESPN2). Thanks to thrilling double-overtime win against Illinois on Sunday, the Nittany Lions clinched a bye in the conference tournament for the first time in program history.

"We have limitless potential (heading into the tournament)," head coach Patrick Chambers said. "(I told them) don't put a limit on anything we can do. Once you do that, you have really stopped getting better...You just have to continue the process of getting better each day and prepare for Ohio State. That's our main goal. We are worried about us and what we can control - our attitude, our effort level and our communication. If you take care of those three things, you are going to give yourself a chance."

The Nittany Lions are relishing in the opportunity they have in front them.  After the 18-game Big Ten regular season, a clean slate levels the playing field in Indianapolis. The Lions will take confidence into what could be a wide-open series of games on the first three days of the tournament. And the Lions enter the postseason playing their best basketball, having won four of their last six games..

"Guys are very healthy heading in to the Big Ten Tournament," said Chambers. "...We are averaging nine threes a game (in the last eight). Our assists have gone up dramatically. Defensively, we are defending the two much better. We are defending the three much better...Our statistics (across the board) are much better during the last eight games. To me, that means we are getting better. And that excites me."

Seeing one another for the second time in 2016, the Lions and Buckeyes played on Jan. 25 in a 66-46 victory for Ohio State. However, both teams are playing much different basketball, and the Nittany Lions are significantly healthier than the first meeting between the two teams.

"We are two very different teams than when we first met," Chambers said. "We didn't have Josh Raves. They don't have (Jae'Sean) Tate now. And Shep (Garner) blew out an ankle in the first minute of that game. It's going to be very exciting to see and it's going to be interesting to be a part of come Thursday."

B1G Tournament_Round I_Ohio State.jpg
VIDEO: Big Ten Tournament Preview - Coach Chambers
Head coach Patrick Chambers addressed the media prior to the team's trip to Indianapolis.

VIDEO: Big Ten Tournament Preview - Player Interviews
Senior Brandon Taylor and sophomore Shep Garner talked with the media before departing for Indianapolis.

Taylor Leading Lions Into Postseason
It's hard to imagine where this Nittany Lion basketball team would be without the leadership senior Brandon Taylor. His value to the growth and development of the program this season really can't be measured in a way to do Taylor justice.

Simply put, he's been a phenomenal all around player for the Nittany Lions on both ends of the floor, and he willed the Blue and White to seven conference wins for only the fifth time since 2000. Taylor has been a provided the blueprint for how to overcome adversity during his time on campus. From where he started to where the forward is now is like night and day.

"Even if I'm not scoring, I think I've done a good job being a leader for the team," said Taylor. "I've been doing different things - getting a rebound or just helping my teammates. Even if it's me not doing it, I try to be there for the younger guys and tell them what they need to be doing to help the team."

Taylor finished eighth in scoring and 10th in rebounding this season in the Big Ten en route to earning All-Big Ten third team honors on Monday night. The New Jersey native has eight double-doubles entering the Big Ten Tournament and is one of six players in the conference to have at least eight.

"What an accomplishment for Brandon," said Chambers. "From where he started to where he is today as a third-team All-Big Ten guy, what a transformation."

He approached every day of his senior season inside the program with the belief that he was going to will the Nittany Lions to success. While Taylor will leave Penn State deserving of more wins than he obtained, the unquestioned leader of the team will leave behind the framework for future success.

Taylor has been instrumental in helping the Nittany Lions play their best basketball of the season down the stretch. The versatile forward steered the Lions to five wins in their last eight games. Now, Taylor and the Nittany Lions enter the postseason with confidence knowing they have the capability to compete in Indianapolis.

Scouting Ohio State
The Buckeyes enter the Big Ten Tournament having won five of their last seven games. The two losses each came at the hand of red-hot Michigan State. Aside from the two setbacks against the Spartans, Ohio State has not lost since Feb. 4.

During that stretch, Ohio State has road wins over Rutgers and Nebraska to go along with home victories against Northwestern, Michigan and Iowa. The Buckeyes won 11 conference games this season, marking the 11th-straight season with at least 10 Big Ten wins.

Junior forward Marc Loving enters the postseason as the team's leading scorer at 13.5 points per game. Sophomore forward Keita Bates-Diop is second on the team at 11.9 tallies per contest. He is Ohio State's top rebounder at 6.4 per game. Freshman guard JaQuan Lyle is third in scoring among active players at 10.4 points per game. He is leading the Buckeyes in assists at 4.3 per game.

As a team, the Buckeyes are 10th in the Big Ten scoring (70.7 ppg) and seventh in scoring defense (67.4 ppg). Ohio State is ranked third in the Big Ten in field goal percentage defense at 40.1 percent. Additionally, the Buckeyes are second in blocked shots at 5.4 per game.

Behind 22 points from Bates-Diop, the Buckeyes handed the Nittany Lions a 66-46 setback on Jan. 25 in Value City Arena. Penn State shot just 33 percent from the field and 4-for-25 from three-point range in the lone meeting between the two teams. Nittany Lion guard Josh Reaves did not play in the first meeting, and Shep Garner suffered a sprained ankle on the game's opening play.

The Nittany Lions and Buckeyes have played four times in the Big Ten Tournament, with Penn State owning a 1-3 mark.

Bracket Breakdown
The 2016 Big Ten Tournament marks the second time in the conference's history that 14 teams are on the bracket. With the addition of Rutgers and Maryland, the tournament extended to five days last season. Should the Nittany Lions advance on Thursday, they would meet No. 2-seeded Michigan State on Friday at 6:30 p.m. ET (BTN). The Nittany Lions are one of four teams to have earned one bye. The top four seeds earned a double bye and will begin play on Friday.

The other teams in Penn State's half of the bracket include third-seeded Maryland, sixth-seeded Wisconsin, 11th-seeded Nebraska and 14th-seeded Rutgers.

Action at Bankers Life Fieldhouse begins on Wednesday with 12th-seeded Illinois taking on 13th-seeded Minnesota and 11th-seeded Nebraska meeting 14th-seeded Rutgers.


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Men's Hoops Gameday 2015-16 - Penn State vs. Northwestern (3/3/16)

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Welcome to live coverage of the 2015-16 Nittany Lion basketball season. The Nittany Lions return home on Thursday for Senior Night against Northwestern.

Live Blog Men's Hoops Gameday 2015-16 - Penn State vs. Northwestern (3/3/16)

Taylor, Seniors Looking to Finish Career at Home on a High

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VIDEO: Patrick Chambers Press Conference - March 1

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - It was shortly after Penn State's three-day run at the 2015 Big Ten Tournament when a light flipped on with Brandon Taylor.

Then a junior, Taylor began to realize the finality of his college basketball career. His days in the practice gym were numbered. And it was time to become the team's leader.

When the Tabernacle, N.J., native returned to campus for summer classes, Taylor was the guy who needed to set the tone in the locker room. It was an unfamiliar role for a student-athlete who always had someone to lean on as a leader during his Penn State career.

He spent his first three seasons on campus playing alongside the likes of Tim Frazier and D.J. Newbill, but it wasn't until last summer that anyone inside the program fully understood what type of leader Taylor could be. He set the tone with his work ethic, and the 6-6 forward hasn't looked back since.

"I felt that urgency since I stepped back on campus for this last season," said Taylor. "It clicked in my head that I don't have a lot of time. For me, and every one of these seniors, it was 'what do we want to make out of this season?' I think that's what these four seniors and everyone else on the team is still thinking about."

Since he arrived on campus as a freshman in 2012, Taylor has lost more than 40 pounds. Fitness was a constant battle during the early stages of his career. Now, Taylor is in outstanding shape and is averaging nearly 32 minutes per contest in 2015-16.

Playing the best basketball of his career, Taylor had never averaged more than 9.2 points per game during his career. This season, he's leading the team at a 16.1 ppg clip, which is ranked No. 10 in the Big Ten heading into the final two games of the season. Taylor has seven double-doubles this season, which is six more than he tallied during his entire career before this season.

"I don't think Brandon Taylor gets enough credit," head coach Patrick Chambers said. "I don't think he is getting the credit for the stellar year that he is having. He's really put the program on his back."

Taylor, along with Jordan Dickerson, Devin Foster, Donovon Jack will be recognized during the Senior Night festivities on Thursday prior to Penn State's 9 p.m. tip against Northwestern. The Nittany Lions (15-14, 6-10 Big Ten) will be looking for their fourth straight win at home when they meet the Wildcats (18-11, 6-10 Big Ten) in the penultimate game of the regular season.

"It's nice to have two games at home," said Chambers. "It's nice to be back in this building. We're finding success in this building. We've had some really good crowds in this building. There is a comfort level here for our guys and our seniors. So hopefully, they come out and enjoy it."

Thursday night's game marks the first of two-straight conference home games to wrap up the season. The Nittany Lions have not played two consecutive games at home since Big Ten play started. The last time Penn State had two straight at home came on Dec. 10 and 12 when the Lions hosted the Return to Rec contests.

The stretch run of the season presents a big opportunity for this senior class to leave its mark on the program. The group has been integral in three-straight 15-win seasons. Additionally, the stakes are high for both Penn State and Northwestern in the Big Ten Tournament seeding picture as both teams look to secure a first-round bye in Indianapolis.

"We have more to give as seniors," said Devin Foster. "We are going to go about it with the same mindset each and every day and each and every practice."

"We still have games left, and we still have things we want to accomplish," said Taylor.

Tip is slated for just after 9 p.m. with live television coverage on ESPNU.

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Garner, Taylor Lead Lions to Third Straight Win

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11726270.jpegUNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Behind 41 points and 10 combined 3-pointers from Shep Garner and Brandon Taylor, the Nittany Lions fended off a furious Nebraska rally in a 56-55 triumph during their third-straight win on Thursday.

Penn State (15-13, 6-9) led the Cornhuskers (14-15, 6-10) by 18, 44-26, with 13:40 on the clock, and things were operating smoothly on both ends of the floor. However, the Cornhuskers scored the next nine points to begin a surge.

Nebraska used an 11-0 run to tie the game at 55-55 in the final minute, but it was Shep Garner's free throw with 7.2 seconds to play that lifted the Lions to their fourth win in their last five outings and their third in a row inside the BJC.

"I was really proud of Shep (Garner) at the end there. He saw that alleyway there. We had a feeling he was going to see that," said head coach Patrick Chambers. "And we knew it was one-on-one or hopefully two shots, so he made the one that counted."

Chambers said that Taylor took command of the huddles in the second half to ensure that the Lions would find a way to win. Penn State took two big punches from Nebraska in the second half. One sliced the Lion lead to 47-41 with 7:54 to go.

Taylor and Garner then countered with back-to-back threes to make it a 12-point game with 6:55 to go. However, that would be Penn State's final field goal of the night. Instead, the Lions needed to find a way to slow the Husker surge, which ultimately tied the game with 50.3 seconds to go.

Following Garner's free throw, Donovon Jack contested the last-ditch shot from Shavon Shields to clinch the Penn State victory. In previous seasons, Taylor is convinced that under similar circumstances the result may have been different for the Blue and White.

"I think the turnovers from myself and a few other players is what got them back in the game," said Taylor. "I think that's a great win for us we grinded it out and in past years we might have not won that game. That's a great job from everybody and like coach said in the locker room, that's a great win and you only have to win by one, so we'll take it."

The result goes back to what has been said frequently about Taylor in 2015-16. The Tabernacle, N.J., native is carrying himself in a manner that permeates a refuse to lose mantra within the team. Therefore, it's no coincidence that the Lions are finding ways to win during the stretch run of the season. Taylor just won't let the Lions stumble.

"His mentality is one of a boxer. Just keep fighting, keep punching. His leadership has been outstanding. Outstanding," said Chambers. "He commanded some of those huddles out there late in the second half. He was the one being more vocal when I was trying to give him that time before I went into the huddle and he commanded it. It was great to hear, great to see, and I felt very confident down the stretch. No matter what was happening."

Moving into the final three games, two of which coming at home, the Lions are going to need more scoring output outside of Garner and Taylor. The duo was fun to watch on Thursday, but the rest of the team accounted for just 15 points in the Nebraska game.

"We have to continue to share the ball. Payton (Banks) has been playing terrific," said Chambers. "Josh (Reaves) is now. Josh (Reaves) was in foul trouble. But we have to keep working on other guys stepping up and making plays. We're a much better team when we have three and four guys in double figures."

Penn State now shifts focus towards a matchup against No. 6 Michigan State on Sunday in the Breslin Center. The Nittany Lions are a much different team than the one that played the Spartans on Jan. 10 (92-65).

"I think we a lot tougher and more mature," said Chambers. "We are playing with a great deal of confidence. We are growing up and playing more consistently. If we continue this pattern and take this on the road, we will give ourselves a chance to compete."

The Nittany Lions are in sole possession of ninth place in the Big Ten standings with three regular season games to play before the Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis.

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Men's Hoops Gameday 2015-16 - Penn State vs. Nebraska (2/25/16)

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Welcome to live coverage of the 2015-16 Nittany Lion basketball season. The Nittany Lions return home on Thursday for a matchup against Nebraska.

Live Blog Men's Hoops Gameday 2015-16 - Penn State vs. Nebraska (2/25/16)

Confidence Remains Key as Lions Look For Third-Straight Win

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Seeking its third consecutive Big Ten win and third straight home victory, the Nittany Lion basketball team returns to the BJC on Thursday to begin its stretch run with a matchup against Nebraska.

Penn State has played seven strong halves of basketball during the past four games, and the Nittany Lions are starting to reap the benefits of consistent play on both ends of the floor. Aside from the final 20 minutes in a setback at Nebraska on Feb. 13, the Lions have marched past Indiana, Iowa and Rutgers to make it three wins in their last four outings.

After a tough schedule in January, the Nittany Lions are playing their best basketball of the season and will look for continued momentum as they head into a stretch of three home games in the last four regular season contests.

"It's the first time we've won two in a row in a long time," said head coach Patrick Chambers. "We broke the pattern of having a great win followed by a tough loss...The punch-back (at Rutgers) is what I was most proud of. They tied it up, and we responded. At Nebraska, we never responded. We responded on Saturday. It was great to see."

The recent surge is not a case of one guy stepping up for the Nittany Lions. The three wins in four outings has been a byproduct of the collective team stepping up with consistent effort, timely plays on defense and much more confidence shooting the basketball on offense.

Brandon Taylor (17.5 ppg last week), Donovon Jack (15.5 ppg last week) and Shep Garner (19.0 ppg last week) have been the offensive catalysts of late. The trio accounted for 52 points per game and shot a combined 53 percent from the field (37-70) in the two wins last week against Iowa and Rutgers.

"We are focused on getting better every day in practice, and it's translated over to wins," said Garner. "Right now, we just want to keep working and focus on how we can win."

Taylor and Garner have been the offensive focal points for the Nittany Lions all season long, but Jack has been red-hot of late and has played with a sense of urgency. Jack set a career-high with 19 points in the victory over No. 4 Iowa. He followed that up with 12 tallies in the win over Rutgers. Jack came into the Iowa game averaging 4.1 points per game. Since the Iowa game, he's averaging 15.5 tallies per contest.

"I've just been feeding off my teammates and focusing on the 'other 95' (percent) like coach always says. I am doing everything hard," said Jack. "I've been doing the little things and trying to feed off of my teammates. I know the end of the road is coming for me (as a senior)."

The Cornhuskers won four-straight Big Ten games in January, but have gone 2-4 during the month of February. Nebraska has been without its second-leading scorer, Shavon Shields, since he took a hard fall in a win over Rutgers on Feb. 6. Shields' status for Thursday's game remains uncertain.

The Huskers scored 38 points and held the Nittany Lions to just 23 in a 70-54 victory over the Blue and White in Lincoln on Feb. 13. Junior guard Andrew White III, who is Nebraska's leading scorer at 17.4 points per game, scored 35 points in the win over Penn State. White is shooting 50 percent from the field and 42 percent from three-point land. Shields is averaging 15.7 tallies per contest and is tied for the team lead in assists with 70 on the season (2.8 per game).

The Nittany Lions are 4-0 in home games against Nebraska and 6-5 overall. Tip is slated for 7 p.m. with television coverage on ESPNU as the Nittany Lions continue to push forward.

"It's the players who have really responded to our coaching, and they have stepped it up," said Chambers. "I'm really proud of the way they have responded."

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Lions Looking to Remain Consistent at Rutgers

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Riding the wave of momentum following a thrilling 79-75 win over No. 4 Iowa, the Nittany Lion basketball team (13-13, 4-9 Big Ten) travels to Rutgers (6-20, 0-13 Big Ten) seeking its third Big Ten win in its last four outings.

Penn State's efforts against Iowa were preceded by three outstanding days of practice. Head coach Patrick Chambers said that the attitude, effort and shot-making ability were a carbon copy of the team's performance in the practice gym.

Now that the Lions have illustrated an ability to compete with the top teams in the Big Ten, Chambers and the team are looking for consistency when the group takes the floor in the RAC for Saturday's 1 p.m. tip against the Scarlet Knights.

"This is a long season. You've got a nice mix of youth and experience, so you are going to have some games (where you are inconsistent)," said Chambers. "I'm just looking for a good, competitive level with real consistency every day at practice."

Senior Brandon Taylor has been the driving force behind Penn State's success throughout the season. Taylor sets the tempo for the team's attitude and effort with his relentless play. The New Jersey native will play in his home state for the final time on Saturday (1 p.m. on ESPNU). Taylor is averaging 16.5 points and 6.2 rebounds per game this season.

Taylor's influence on the team is probably felt most by his confidence. He came into the media room after Wednesday's big win and was immediately looking ahead to the task at hand for Saturday's game against the Scarlet Knights. That has been the team's outlook of how to build on Wednesday's effort.

"For us, the Iowa win was over at midnight (on Wednesday)," said Chambers. "We came back in (on Thursday) and practiced hard. We are just staying focused on trying to get better. That's been my message to them and then work on our consistency. We haven't been consistent. If we can get consistent, we are better."

Road games have not been kind to Penn State's shooting touch during Big Ten play, but the Lions are not going to shy away from good looks at the basket.

"I just keep telling them to play with confidence," Chambers said. "If you have an open shot, shoot it. I'd like to see us to get to the free throw line a little more. When we share the ball, we get really good shots. Good things happen when we move the ball side to side and get into the paint. But if you have open shots, you need to stick them."

Rutgers enters the only regular season meeting between the two teams looking for its first Big Ten win of the season. The Scarlet Knights will be without leading scorer Corey Sanders on Saturday. Outside of Sanders, guard Mike Williams is the long Scarlet Knight averaging double-figures in Big Ten games.

"With or without Sanders, they fight and they compete," said Chambers. "We've been there before. You play with desperation. We have to play 10 to 15 points better on Saturday if we want to come out on top. That's how hard they are going to play in this game."

Penn State owns a 38-30 edge in the all-time series. The two teams split the season series last year, with Rutgers scoring a 50-46 win at the RAC, while the Lions notched a 79-51 win in the BJC.

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