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By Arielle Sargent, GoPSUSports.com
LINCOLN, Neb. - Early in the week, Penn State head coach Patrick Chamber expressed some concern as the Nittany Lions prepped for their Tuesday evening trip to Lincoln. Inside of a hostile Pinnacle Bank Arena, Chambers' concerns turned to reality as the Nittany Lions fell in an 82-66 decision to snap a two-game conference winning streak.
"Nebraska played terrific," Chambers said. "They did a great job. It seemed like everything was going right for them."
Nebraska jumped out to an early seven-point lead nearly five minutes into the opening half. Freshmen Lamar Stevens and Tony Carr quickly combined for a 9-2 run, sparked by a Stevens 3-pointer, which brought Penn State within two, 15-13.
Returning to the court from an illness, Julian Moore and Stevens pushed Penn State back within two twice more with a pair of jumpers in between a Nebraska dunk. The Huskers responded with a trio of free throws to widen the gap to five, before freshman Mike Watkins added a pair of buckets to keep Penn State within two twice more.
With Nebraska leading 24-22 at the 10:09 mark, the Huskers went surging ahead, stretching the advantage to double figures with a 10-2 streak.
The Penn State freshman group continued to answer back though, narrowing the deficit to as few as five off of a Josh Reaves layup from a Watkins steal with four seconds remaining.
Nebraska wasn't going away though, extinguishing yet another Nittany Lion spark with a near-half court shot to enter the locker room with an eight-point lead, 37-45.
"We did a decent job hanging in there," Chambers said. "They [Nebraska] hit a half-court shot, if they didn't hit that you'd only be down by five."
In just their first appearance on the road in Lincoln, Carr and Stevens paced the Nittany Lions offensively in the first half, adding spark after spark to give Penn State the opportunity. Carr entered the half with 13 points, shooting 6-8 from the field with three rebounds and an assist. Stevens added nine points, grabbing two boards before the break.
Penn State couldn't settle into a rhythm out of the break though, as the Huskers only continued to dial up the defense, shutting the Nittany Lions out of the paint. Hindered by an uncharacteristically off night from behind the arc for Penn State, Nebraska only capitalized on the opportunity.
"Obviously in the second half, they did a nice job guarding us," Chambers said. "I knew we had to make eight 3s to stay in this game because of their defensive style."
A bright spot on the stat sheet, both Carr and Stevens finished with double figures. Carr led the team with 15 points and seven rebounds, while Stevens came in just behind with 13 points and seven rebounds.
"I thought they did a nice job in the first half, but we need consistency and we need them to play defense" Chambers said.
Without much more to say, Chambers noted that there will be no yelling and no screaming. Rather, Penn State will take the same approach it's taken all season, get back in the gym and get back to work on the little things, habits and toughness in a hostile environment.
As Chambers also noted though, although young and dealing with a unique set of added responsibility, the Nittany Lions are getting there.
"They are working so hard and to put that much pressure and stress on them to be leaders, to score, to rebound, to defend and do everything for you, as 18-year-olds, it's only going to make them that much better," Chambers.
Although excited about the future of the young talent though, it's back to work, as the Nittany Lions prepare to host Purdue Tuesday, Feb. 21 at 6 p.m. in the Bryce Jordan Center.
"It's definitely going to be a learning lesson for us tonight," Chambers said. "Hopefully we can carry that with us on our seven days off approaching, and we can be that much better down the stretch."
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - As the grind of the Big Ten slate continues to roll along, the Nittany Lions will leave the comfort of Happy Valley to hit the road for four of its final six regular season league outings.
The Nittany Lions (13-12, 5-7) kick off the stretch traveling to Illinois to meet the Fighting Illini (14-11, 4-8) for the second time this season Saturday.
Approaching the midway point in the month of February, both Penn State head coach Patrick Chambers and the Nittany Lions have all expressed the all-too-familiar physical and mental challenges surrounding the rigors of the conference schedule.
As Chambers noted Friday afternoon though, heading into the final six games of the regular season, meaningful contributions from the Penn State bench will be huge.
In the last five games, Penn State's bench has is averaging 21.2 points per game, compared to its opponents, who are averaging fewer than 14 points per game from the bench.
Within that same five-game stretch, Penn State's bench logged a Big Ten-high 29 points in the home win against Illinois, contributing at least 20 points per game in three of the five games.
As foul trouble threatened the Nittany Lions in Tuesday's 70-64 win against No. 21/22 Maryland, freshman Nazeer Bostick stepped up late with a standout series featuring an offensive board, put back and a block on the other end to finish with four points. He wasn't the only one though.
Julian Moore, who had started the previous four games, also came off the bench against the Terps to finish with nine points, including a 5-for-6 showing from the free throw line, sinking a pair at the the 12:52 mark of the first half to put Penn State ahead for good.
"I think we have a really deep bench and coaches who trust in a lot of players," freshman Lamar Stevens said following the Maryland victory. "So having that deep bench, it doesn't stop our game plan at all. We have guys on the bench who can come in, and they'll still do what they're supposed to do. Luckily we had guys that came in that made huge plays like Nazeer and Julian and guys like that."
Chambers only echoed the mention of trust and confidence, especially among a bench that has seen a few new faces from time to time with five starting lineup combinations to date.
Who has impressed him though?
Chambers specifically noted that both Moore and Payton Banks have been significant in non-starting roles.
In the five-game stretch, Banks came off the bench to register double digits in each of the first three games, which also includes a 17-point showing against Illinois, where he also shot 4-for-5 from behind the arc.
"Payton, to be selfless, he really could start, he should start, but he just wants to win," Chambers said. "He doesn't care if he started or came off the bench, so he sacrificed."
Outside of Bostick and with Terrence Samuel out with and illness, Chambers also noted that Davis Zemgulis has also made contributions lately. Making his third appearance in a conference game this season, Zemgulis came off the bench and grabbed a board against Maryland.
"Nazeer and Davis really have stepped up in practice and they stepped up in the Maryland game," Chambers said. "My confidence in them is sky high, so I look forward to them getting more minutes as we go down the stretch here."
A Bit About Illinois
The Fighting Illini head into Saturday's matchup coming off of a 68-61 win on the road at Northwestern Tuesday. Leading scorer Malcolm Hill led the team with 14 points and nine rebounds in the win against the Wildcats.
On the year, Hill's averaging 16.9 points per game, which ranks sixth in the conference standings. In Penn State's earlier win against Illinois, Hill was also one of three in double figures, leading the team with 19 points.
Having already seen the Fighting Illini this year, the Nittany Lions have plenty to look back on, having held Illinois to less than 70 points with a 60 percent shooting effort in the first half of the most recent meeting. In the second half though, the Fighting Illini trimmed a 20-point Penn State lead to as few as three before the Nittany Lions' impressive foul shooting in the final minutes held off Illinois.
"We shot the ball well in the first half and then they came out and kind of role reversed, we were still up 22 with four minutes to go and then they just played desperate and hard and we started playing a little bit not to lose instead of playing to win and being confident," Chambers said.
As Chambers noted it was a tale of two halves, but his remedy come Saturday is just the same as always, stick to Penn State basketball.Tipoff at the State Farm Center is set for 2 p.m. ET with live coverage on Big Ten Network.
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - On Monday afternoon, Penn State head coach Patrick Chambers told a room full of media members that Nittany Lion freshman Tony Carr was ready to take on a leadership role.
"He's going to be right there alongside the other captains," Chambers said Friday. "He's ready for it, he wants that pressure, that responsibility, he wants it, he understands what it means."
Flash forward to Tuesday night, which presented a nearly perfect pressure situation for Carr to emerge as the consistent and composed leader the Nittany Lions have been yearning for.
With both Penn State and Maryland coming off of earlier losses, the No. 21/22 Terrapins also entered the matchup as one of the nation's best in true road outings, and just one of two teams to remain unbeaten on the road at 6-0 on the year.
"In the locker room, I could sense something a little bit different, and I thought we'd go out and compete tonight for sure," Chamber said postgame after the Nittany Lions knocked off Maryland to earn its fourth consecutive win against a ranked team at home in the Bryce Jordan Center.
For perspective, per ESPN, that's the longest streak in Penn State's entire program history.
Contrary to many Penn State conference victories this season though, the Nittany Lion victory came without a tremendous amount of nail-biting, edge-of-the-seat drama.
Rather, it was Carr who calmly took command the offense, debuting all the qualities of the fearless leader that Chambers has entrusted him to be.
Penn State came out solid defensively as freshman Mike Watkins quickly tallied three blocks, shooting 2-2 from the free throw line before Carr and freshman Lamar Stevens added a trio of buckets to give the Nittany Lions a five-point lead, 8-3.
Maryland responded with a 7-2 run to tie the score, 10-10, capped off by a triple from Melo Trimble, the Terps' top scorer who entered the matchup averaging 17.2 points per game and 16.2 in Big Ten outings.
That was Trimble's last bucket until just under the five-minute mark in the first half, when he put in a layup to spark a quick 4-0 streak that trimmed the Penn State advantage back to four, 28-24. Carr cut off the run with a jumper before a 1-2 showing from the free throw line settled the Nittany Lions into a stretch that gave Penn State a 35-29 lead heading into halftime.
Another piece of Chambers' Monday afternoon message to the media, included a call to action for Carr. Drop the ladder.
"Drop the ladder and pull guys up with you," Chambers said Friday.
Carr wasted no time getting that ladder into position, not only bringing along, but brining out the best in a host of Nittany Lions Tuesday night.
Stevens opened the second half with a steal, opening a 9-2 run capped off by an emphatic dunk and a transition bucket from Carr to force the Terps into a timeout, with Penn State on top 40-31.
Stevens continued to surge, scoring 16 points in the second half to finish with a team-high 25 points, marking his fourth 20-point game of the season.
Midway through the second half, Watkins slammed home a dunk to open another 6-0 run to send the Penn State advantage back to double figures, 52-38 as Maryland called another timeout.
The Terps weren't gone for good though, as Maryland managed to battle back within four, 64-58, with 3:26 to play. Penn State wasn't let its lead slip away though, as freshman Nazeer Bostick came off the bench to grab the offensive board, add the put back and then post up for a crucial block on the other end to give Penn State the six-point edge, 62-58.
"He's earned the way into the rotation to be able to get out there with these guys," Chambers said postgame.
Bostick's big series down the stretch wasn't anything his fellow Roman Catholic high school teammates had never seen before though.
"He has the nickname 'horse,' because he makes plays like that," Stevens said. "He comes up big in huge moments, and he's always done this since high school. It's not surprising to see Naz just being that tough physical guy, and he deserved to make that play."
In total, the Nittany Lion freshmen accounted for 53 of Penn State's 70 total points, with Stevens, Carr and Watkins leading the way with double figure scoring performances. Penn State's freshmen also contributing 24 of 37 rebounds on the way to the 70-64 final decision.
Although impressive with zero turnovers in 33 minutes, and a visibly more vocal presence on the court, Carr will now shift toward carrying on the added responsibility at perhaps one of the most pivotal times of the season.
"Tony was great at the last couple of practices at leading since I had a talk with him about it," Chambers said. "Now he has to be consistent with it. Leadership is every day."Penn State hits the road this weekend, traveling Illinois to square off against the Fighting Illini Friday, Feb. 11 at 2 p.m. in Champaign.
By Simone Lee, GoPSUSports.com
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - To honor and celebrate Black History Month, Penn State Athletics is proud to share the stories of its African American student-athletes and coaches who have shaped Nittany Lion history through their success and challenges, even long after Penn State.
Penn State's first African American student-athlete, in 1909, Cumberland "Cum" W. Posey was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in September 2016. He is the first person to be inducted into the National Baseball and Naismith Basketball Halls of Fame.
Born June 20, 1890, Posey was born into a strong family, one built on the foundation of hard work and entrepreneurial spirit, which allowed Posey a tremendous amount of opportunity.
Able to attend school in Pittsburgh, Posey also was able to play basketball and baseball for local clubs, as well as on his school teams. Heading into his high school years, Posey attended Homestead High School and there created one of the first all-black club teams, the "Monticello Club." At 5-9 and 140 pounds, Posey quickly earned the nickname "lightning fast."
Enrolling at Penn State in 1909, Posey made history as the school's first recognized black student-athletes. While studying chemistry, Posey also was a multi-sport student-athlete as a forward on the freshman basketball squad in 1909-10, the varsity basketball squad (1910-11) and the freshman baseball team.
Following two seasons at Penn State, Posey decided to continue his academic and athletic career at Duquesne University in his hometown of Pittsburgh. While at Duquesne, Posey led the team as its top scorer all three seasons.
In 1911, Posey formed the roots of the Monticello Athletic Association (MAA) and in just a year, quickly became one of the top players on team in addition to taking on responsibilities as "The Monticellos" main operator, responsible for management, book keeping and aspects of promotion. The MAA later changed its name to the "Loendi Big Five," where he both directed and helped his teams to the Colored Basketball World Championship for four consecutive years.
Although he didn't earn a varsity letter at Penn State, Posey was among a group nominated as one of 16 to earn a direct elect nomination by the Early African American Pioneers Committee prior to his election into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
Basketball is just one piece of his legendary career and impact, though.
Post "Loendi Big Five," Posey soon furthered his career and influence as one of the greatest entrepreneurs in professional sports, along with his already established reputation as one of the greatest college basketball players of his time.
Posey was instrumental in forming the "Homestead Grays," a semi-professional baseball team based in Pittsburgh that played in the Negro National League (NNL). Stringing together a roster originally consisting of steel workers, there was no denying that Posey had outstanding knowledge when it came to identifying talent.
While playing for the Homestead Grays, Posey was presented with a re-occurring problem, as he was often easily recognized by baseball fans in the Pittsburgh area. It wasn't until 1920 that Posey, who worked his way through the ranks from player to primary management role, finished his playing career with the Grays.
Whether it was playing or managing the Grays, though, Posey transformed the organization into one of the most successful franchises the Negro Baseball League history.
As both owner and manager of the Grays, there came a point where he and the other owners of all-black baseball teams became weary when one of their very own, Jackie Robinson, eventually signed with the Montreal Royals.
As Robinson prepared to sign with an all-white baseball team, Posey and the rest of the owners feared that if Robinson became successful on the national stage, the Negro National League (NNL) would cease to exist.
In the early stages and for the sake of the NNL, many black owners hoped that Robinson's career wouldn't take off. It was Posey though, who soon realized, Robinson's true potential and the great picture of the future of professional baseball.
Posey owned the franchise until losing his battle with a terminal illness on March 28, 1946, after 35 seasons as the team's founding father.
In celebration of his life and outstanding contributions the sport, Posey was posthumously honored by the Negro Baseball League as one of of 17 Negro Baseball League legends selected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006. Posey was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame as an executive, joining a small yet elite group of honorees selected as executives.
Posey's entrepreneurial legacy continues to live on, as he's still widely known as one of the most influential people in Negro baseball history. His legacy of integrity and leadership will continue to live on not only in the community, but all in all of baseball history.
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - On Friday morning, Penn State head coach Patrick Chambers noted that Saturday's matchup would present an opportunity for the Nittany Lions to benchmark their mental growth and maturity.
Coming off of a bitter triple overtime loss on the road at Indiana earlier this week, the Nittany Lions had just two days to press the reset button and shift the focus toward a surging Scarlet Knights team.
By the time Chambers saw the ball tossed into the air though, he knew Penn State was in trouble. The body language was off.
Rutgers raced out to a seven-point lead, 16-9, taking an early advantage less than five minutes into the game.
Shep Garner wasn't off though, as the junior knocked down 3-pointer after 3-pointer to keep the Nittany Lions within. Connecting on his third triple of the day, Garner quickly cut the Rutgers advantage back to four, 16-12 with 12:21 to play in the opening frame.
With the Nittany Lions unable to sustain the momentum, the Scarlet Knights answered back before Garner drained another trey to close the gap to three, 18-15. Still Penn State couldn't find its spark as Rutgers followed with back-to-back buckets to pull back ahead by seven.
Right on cue, Garner fired his fifth 3-pointer of the afternoon before a Mike Watkins free throw trimmed the deficit back to three, 22-19 with fewer than 10 minutes remaining in the first half.
That was as close as the Nittany Lions would come though as Rutgers pushed the tempo, forcing its way inside to head into the locker room with a six-point lead, 35-29.
Looking to regroup in the second half, Penn State opened the frame with a 7-5 stretch capped off by a dunk from Josh Reaves to arrive back within four, 40-36. The Nittany Lions couldn't settle into a rhythm though as the Scarlet Knights went surging ahead by as many as 13, 60-47.
With less than eight minutes to play, a pair of free throws from Tony Carr opened up a 13-4 Penn State run, finished off by Banks' first 3-pointer of the day just before he dished off to Mike Watkins for the alley-oop slam, forcing Rutgers to call a timeout.
Carr came out of the break with a steal before finishing with a bucket to bring Penn State within two, 64-62 with a little more than two minutes remaining in the game. The Scarlet Knights followed with a 5-3 streak though, pulling back ahead by as many as four in the final minute of the game.
With 11 seconds on the clock, Reaves, Penn State's go-to juice man knocked down his first 3-pointer of the day to make it a one-point game.
In a foul situation, Rutgers went just 1-for-2 from the charity stripe before a scrambling Carr drove in for the layup, falling just short as the backboard lit up in red.
"I was kind of in disbelief that we let opportunities slip through our hands again," Carr said postgame. "We had great opportunities during the season but we just let another one slip through our hands so it was a big letdown to lose that game and just a bad feeling."
Carr, who finished second on the team with 17 points went 11-for-13 from the free throw line while also dishing out four assists.
Despite a team-high 24 points from Garner, including a 6-for-9 showing from behind the arc, the Nittany Lions simply couldn't find their footing.
For Garner, his explanation mirrored that of his head coach's.
"I don't think they did anything special, we were missing our shots," Garner said. "We were just off as a team."
Whether off or on, at the end of the day though, the question of what Chambers had learned from his Nittany Lions in terms of mental growth and maturity was still lingering.
"I found out we're young and we need better leadership right now, that's what I found out," Chamber said. "You can't show up in the last three minutes and finally play with some energy and juice. We have to do a better job."
As every team does after a tough loss, the Nittany Lions will put what's done in the past and look toward the future.
With a new day and a new week on the horizon, as Garner notes, its time for Penn State to get back to work.
"We have Maryland coming here and we're going to prepare for them," Garner said. "We'll try to see what we did wrong this game and get better."
The Nittany Lions and the No. 17 Terrapins are set to meet Tuesday, Feb. 7 at 6 p.m. in the Bryce Jordan Center.
"We could've easily let that one slip away but we made the necessary plays down the stretch to find success and I'm really proud of them," head coach Patrick Chambers said.
Although entering Saturday afternoon's matchup on a three-game skid, the Nittany Lions found a way to reignite the energy from the sound of the first whistle, earning Penn State's fourth January victory for the first time in the Chambers era.
"That's the first time we've done that in my six years here," Chambers said. "To be able to get to 4-5 [in the Big Ten] and creep up the standings a little bit is a credit to these kids and the upperclassmen that kept competing."
Firsts seem to be a little bit of a theme for the Nittany Lions on Coaches vs. Cancer day as more than 10,000 filled the Bryce Jordan Center, including former players in honor of alumni day.
In the first half, Penn State shot out to the early advantage as veteran leaders Shep Garner and Payton Banks came alive from the 3-point line, knocking down a trio of triples. Penn State cruised to halftime, with a last-second bucket from freshman Tony Carr bolstering the advantage to as many as 20 points, 45-25.
Heading into the locker room, Penn State was clicking, shooting 60 percent from the field to match its best first half since the Michigan State win at the Palestra in early January.
As Chambers and his Nittany Lions have noted all season though, the offensive momentum, the lead and the shooting clip aren't exactly the focus, but rather, it's what's happening defensively that leads to the offensive success.
In the locker room at halftime though, the message was keeping the consistency alive, playing out the full 40 minutes.
"We did it in non-conference when it was coming down the stretch at St. Johns, Wright State, and Morgan State," Chambers said. "I feel like we got to that goal, and in the Big Ten, it's a whole other animal."
True to his note, it was Illinois that came out in the second half looking like a whole other animal.
"Coach [Chambers] was telling us they're one of the toughest teams in the league, so just like us, we usually have a lot of fight, and we knew they were going to try to make a run," Banks said.
With Penn State leading by as many as 21 five minutes into the second half, Illinois adjustments led to a 28-10 run that narrowed the Nittany Lion advantage to as few as three.
Banks looked to double the lead with his fourth 3-pointer of the day, but Illinois answered right back with another triple to trim the gap back to three, 65-62 with less than two minutes to play in the game.
Next it was Garner who went 4-for-4 from the free throw line, in the final few minutes of play, drawing the Illinois charge to send him to the charity stripe to keep Penn State ahead by five with eight seconds to play, 69-64.
"Shep really set the tone to make his free throws down the stretch there, that shows where his head is right now," Chambers said. "I think we see an emerging leader. He's definitely back."
Garner led the team with 18 points, including four 3-pointers. Although quieter than usual across the last few games, Garner showed glimpses of settling back into a rhythm with three triples in Tuesday's trip to Wisconsin.
That's no reason to be concerned for Garner though, who simply hit the gym and continued to listen to his teammates to break free from the slump.
"My teammates always tell me to shoot," Garner said. "They've been telling me to shoot when I'm open, so that just gave me a little bit of confidence coming into the game."
Along with Garner though, Banks finished second on the team with 17 points, shooting 5-for-8 from the field despite being limited to just one three in the second half.
"I think they did a really good job finding me in transition," Banks said. "That's where I like finding a lot of my threes."
Aside from the veteran leadership though, curious case of the Nittany Lion dunks came back to help Penn State in the win.
In each of Penn State's Big Ten wins this season the Nittany Lions have posted at least five dunks, with PSU registering five in the win against the Illini.
For Garner, the dunks are a sign that the energy is back.
"Dunks definitely get me excited, because I'm not the most athletic person," Garner said. "I like to see dunks a lot. That's my thing. I like to give up passes for dunks."
For Chambers though, he would prefer it a little differently."I wish stops and charges and big-time grown-man rebounds that are above the rim, I wish those would get us going instead of dunks," Chambers said. "We need juice, we need energy, we need that fire. Especially when you're going through a grueling 10 minutes."
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