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Bright Future Ahead of Nittany Lions

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By Arielle Sargent, GoPSUSports.com

WASHINGTON - Penn State men's basketball's 2016-17 season came to a close in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament as the No. 13 Nittany Lions fell to fifth-seeded Michigan State, 78-51 at the Verizon Center.

Opposite of Penn State's fast start Wednesday night, it was the Spartans who came out firing, using an 11-0 run in the early part of the first half to construct a double digit advantage, 14-6. Shep Garner answered back for the Nittany Lions, nailing his first triple before Terrence Samuel went 2-2 from the free throw line, working to close the gap. 

Penn State struggled to settle into a rhythm though, as Michigan State dialed up the speed with a 12-0 run to surge ahead, 30-13. Unfazed, the Nittany Lions buckled down and battled back with a 12-3 run, featuring a 6-6 showing from the free throw line to arrive within nine.

Still the Spartans returned, using a 9-0 run to enter halftime with a 45-27 advantage.

"We needed more energy, more juice, more fire, we needed some baskets to go early," Penn State head coach Patrick Chambers said. "I knew that the first four minutes, eight minutes were huge where we had a few of those in and outs, in and outs and then we got a little bit deflated, then we got it back to nine and I thought boy we're in great shape and then they went on another run."

Despite a first half featuring back and forth runs, Penn State simply couldn't match the Spartan scoring streaks out of the break as Michigan State maintaining the double digit advantage to the final buzzer.

"They outplayed us," freshman Tony Carr said. "They played harder, they sprinted harder, they ran their cuts harder, they just did everything harder than us and that cost us." 

Carr and fellow freshman Lamar Stevens did all they could to power the offense, combining for 32 of Penn State's 51 points. Carr finished with 16 points, including a 9-for-11 showing from the free throw line in addition to collecting five rebounds. Stevens also led the team with 16 points, registering 12 points in the second half alone.

For Chambers though, the Nittany Lions needed the type of balanced offensive performance from Wednesday, but such has been the case this season, Penn State couldn't carry over the consistency. 

"This is a process, an absolute process for this team," Chambers said. "You can't speed up the process. We had a great day yesterday, celebratory day. This is the mental toughness part of it, the inexperience part of it that we have to go through."

Inexperience has plagued the Nittany Lions all season, as Penn State's standout freshman class was thrust into some serious on the job training. Making an immediate impact, the freshman class held its own, contributing just over 50 percent of Penn State's offensive production this year.

Carr and Stevens led the way with at least 400 points on the year, led by 13.2 points per game from Carr and 12.7 from Stevens. On the defensive side of things, redshirt freshman Mike Watkins grabbed a team-high and record setting 267 rebounds, leading the team with 8.1 per game to go along with 90 blocks. 

Although the inexperience stings at times, there's no denying that the future of Penn State basketball is perhaps brighter than its ever been. 

"I would say the future is very bright for us, just knowing that we have the talent and the determination to just do positive things is great so moving forward we're going to keep working our hardest and making this team the best that we can," Carr said.

Nothing but support surrounds the group of rookies, who will soon be sophomores.

"We're a lot closer than everyone thinks," Josh Reaves said. "We're right there, we're about to turn the corner I think. We just need to be a lot more mentally tough and physically tough to be able to push through all the injuries, all the soreness, all the fatigue. When we get there, it's going to be exciting to watch with us."

Evident in the leadership and preparation, the dedication from the freshman class has proved not only infectious but inspiring, especially as it relates to the future.

"I can't wait to get back in the gym with these guys, I know how hungry they are, I know how much they want to win and it drives us all," Reaves said. 

As the process moves along, so will the Nittany Lions, and as Chambers notes, he'll get back to work by making a complete evaluation of the entire team.

Starting now, Penn State will put this loss in the past and continue building off of what it's already started.

"We're a young team, but we have great leaders and we're going to get back up tomorrow and get ready for next year and do everything we can to prepare," Stevens said. "We take every loss, every win as a learning lesson and we're going to build off of that for next year." 


Reach Arielle at ans26@psu.edu or follow on Twitter @arielle_sargent
WASHINGTON - No. 13 seed Penn State is back in action, meeting No. 5 Michigan State in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament. The Nittany Lions knocked off No. 12 seed Nebraska in overtime yesterday to advance to the second round, which kicks off at approximately 2:30 p.m. at the Verizon Center. Follow along for live in-game updates and exclusive content. 


Live Blog Men's Hoops Gameday Live vs. Michigan State (Big Ten Tournament)
 

Watkins Powers Penn State Past Nebraska

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By Arielle Sargent, GoPSUSports.com

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Arriving at seemingly just the right time, the ball bounced toward Penn State today as the No. 13 seeded Nittany Lions knocked off No. 12 Nebraska in a 76-67 overtime decision in the opening round of the Big Ten Tournament.

Penn State's metaphorical bounce in the right direction wasn't all luck though, as Penn State head coach Patrick Chambers has routinely preached the Nittany Lions would have to earn the right for the ball to bounce the right way, often on the other end of some unpleasant bounces in the regular season.  

Come tournament time, Penn State jumped out to fast start, using a 7-0 run to featuring a dunk and a block by Mike Watkins to send the Nittany Lions ahead by nine, 22-13. As Watkins collected his first foul of the evening, the Huskers went 1-2 from the free throw line to trim the gap. Following Lamar Stevens' first 3-pointer of the day, Watkins connected on a layup to push the Penn State advantage to double figures. 

Nebraska came storming back, tying the score at 30-30 with less than five minutes to play off of a 3-pointer from leading scorer Tai Webster, who the Nittany Lions later limited to just two second-half points. Penn State regrouped, ratcheting up the defense before heading into the locker room with a five-point lead, 38-33.

At the very core of Penn State's regrouping effort, Watkins led the way, entering halftime with a team-high 10 points, five blocks and five rebounds, breaking a Nittany Lion single season freshman rebounds record originally set in 1952.

"Before the game in warmups, I just saw how locked in he was," Josh Reaves said. "Every time we get that Mike it's a problem."

"That Mike" was merely heating up.

Despite Nebraska shaving the Penn State advantage just one in the early part of the second half, Watkins sparked a 10-4 run with a jumper and a slam, before Shep Garner drained consecutive triples to lift the Nittany Lions ahead by nine, 50-41, with 11:27 to play.

As quickly as Penn State built its advantage though, the Huskers responded, arriving within one twice more, tying the score off of a 3-pointer from Glynn Watson Jr. with less than a minute to play.

Finding his way to the foul line, Carr went 2-2 to put Penn State on top by two, but Nebraska responded again to tie the score, 60-60.

With Carr unable to get to the line again, an audible inhale swelled among the Penn State bench as the Huskers heaved a near half court shot out of the break with just a few seconds on the clock. 

Dinging the left side of the backboard, the shot was no good and the Nittany Lions were headed to overtime.

The ball had bounced toward Penn State and it was time for the Nittany Lions to step up and earn it.

Pulling up for his second attempt of the day, Sevens opened overtime with his second 3-pointer on the night the Nittany Lions didn't look back.

"It was huge," Chambers said, reflecting on the perfectly timed 3-ball. "The other thing is, he earned the right to make that shot. He's in the gym shooting those shots so it goes in and I wasn't surprised."

Equally as undeniably huge though, was the performance from Watkins, who took control of the Nittany Lion defense that limited the Huskers to fewer than 70 points for the 11th time this season. Penn State's magic number, the Nittany Lions are 11-0 when holding opponents to 70 or fewer points on the year. 

Watkins led the Nittany Lions on the boards with 11 rebounds, adding a Big Ten Tournament record eight blocks. His presence was also critical to the offensive side of the ball, finishing with a team-high 18 points for his eighth double-double of the season.

"He has the ability to do that every night on any given night against any given team," Reaves said. "It's crazy to watch and it's very comforting to have a big guy back there who is able to do that and he just cleans up the glass like - well it is his job, but it's crazy to watch."

For Chambers, Watkins played with pure desire, which ultimately proved key when it came down to execution, staying on his feet and keeping high hands to avoid costly foul trouble.

"He knew exactly how he was going to go out and compete," Chambers said. "He bought into the game plan since Monday, that kid is absolutely invested in Penn State basketball and I think that's what you saw today," Chambers said.

It wasn't just Watkins who arrived at the Verizon Center with a laser-like focus though.

"Everyone just dialed in playing defense and they made their runs but we didn't deflate, we banned together and we played a lot harder," Reaves said. "It was definitely one of the better games defensively that we've played all year and I'm just so proud that we were able to get it done." 

All part of the process, the "dialing in" began days in advance, as Chambers noted the Nittany Lions asked to return to their October style practices, their roots, in order to prepare for a Big Ten battle between two tough teams.

"We had a good practice," Chambers said. "Short and hard, we went old school a little bit. A little dive drill, a little charge drill, keeping everybody on their toes." 

Emphasizing all week that the tougher team would emerge with the victory, Chambers took his Nittany Lions back to the grind and the team returned with just the amount of grit needed to advance. 

"They wanted it, they said we have to go back a little bit to get our roots and get our identity," Chambers said. "We found our identity today."

Penn State returns to action tomorrow at approximately 2:30 p.m. (BTN), meeting fifth-ranked Michigan State. The Spartans went 18-13 overall and 9-8 in conference games earning first round bye heading in to the Big Ten Tournament.

Reach Arielle at ans26@psu.edu or follow on Twitter @arielle_sargent
WASHINGTON - Earning the No. 13 seed, Penn State (14-17, 6-12) is set to meet No. 12 Nebraska (12-18, 6-12) in the opening matchup of the event Wednesday, March 8 at 4:30 p.m. (ESPN2) in Washington, D.C. at the Verizon Center. Follow along for live in-game updates and exclusive content. 



Live Blog Men's Hoops Gameday Live vs. Nebraska (Big Ten Tournament)
 

By Arielle Sargent, GoPSUSports.com

Big Ten Tournament Live Blog - Penn State vs. Nebraska

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For Penn State men's basketball, the start of the Big Ten Tournament means the Nittany Lions are back at 0-0 with a fresh start and limitless opportunity ahead.

Earning the No. 13 seed, Penn State (14-17, 6-12) is set to meet No. 12 Nebraska (12-18, 6-12) in the opening matchup of the event Wednesday, March 8 at 4:30 p.m. (ESPN2) in Washington, D.C. at the Verizon Center.

Although coming off of a bit of a bitter end to the regular season, Penn State's 90-79 loss on the road at Iowa didn't come without a fight.

"The kids kept competing and they kept fighting and they kept battling and that's our culture, that's the core of their being, Chambers said. "We had chances to roll over, even at Minnesota a few weeks prior. They kept battling and the fact that they're doing that bodes very, very well for this week and for our future."

Among the Big Ten battles this season, Penn State has seen six losses decided by five points or less, proving that the Nittany Lions are most definitely within reach when it comes to turning the corner.

"Mentally, that can wear you down a little bit.  But I think the culture that we have here is very positive, very upbeat, they're learning-type losses," Chambers said. "We're going to learn from these types of experiences and we're going to flip these and hopefully we can start it on Wednesday and start it right now and not think about next year." 

For Chambers, the Nittany Lions simply aren't ready to look toward next year though, with a lot of basketball still very much a possibility in the future. 

"We're right here, right now and we're focused on Nebraska and the Big Ten Tournament," Chambers said.

Penn State and Nebraska met just once during the regular season, with the Huskers capturing an 82-66 win on the road in Lincoln. Despite the outcome though, Penn State has put the past in the past, focusing its energy on the present.

"Just try to take it one game at a time, try to get the job done," Shep Garner said. "You know you can't look forward, you can't even think about the past, you have to try to get it done that one day. One day at a time. I think one day at a time is basically the best way to describe it at this point in the day."

The one day at a time mentality begins Wednesday, as Penn State officially gets underway in the Big Ten Tournament. At 11-19 in the event, Penn State last met the Huskers as the No. 13 seed in 2015, advancing as far as the quarterfinals before falling short against Purdue.

Carr's Big Ten Honor
Penn State's Tony Carr earned Big Ten All-Freshman team honors, making him the first freshman Nittany Lion to earn the honor since 2006, also picking up honorable mention distinction.
 

"The kid's a fierce competitor and he wants to win," Chambers said.

Since stepping into a leadership role on the team, Carr has made an immediate impact on the court for the Nittany Lions. Leading the team with 13.2 points per game, Carr has closed out the season averaging nearly 17 points per game and 5.4 assists across the last 10 games.

"I've always been a guy who tries to lead by example per say, I was kind of vocal with my high school team but we were winning most of the games so we kind of just led ourselves, but just being here and dealing with the adversity of losing some games has definitely made me a much better player," Carr said. "Just trying to get through certain nights and certain matchups where we might be under-manned or overwhelmed, it definitely gives me a different perspective of how to lead on a team where we're not winning as many games as I'm used to."

A Closer Look at the Huskers
Similar to the Nittany Lions, Nebraska also enters the Big Ten Tournament with a young roster, featuring just one senior in Tai Webster. Webster was recently selected to the All-Big Ten team by both the coaches and media, entering the Big Ten Tournament ranked third in the conference averaging 17.2 points per game to go along with 5.1 rebounds and 4.0 assists.

Glynn Watson Jr. is just behind Webster in the team standings averaging 13.4 points per game, while Michael Jacobson is leading the way on the glass with 6.5 boards per game. All together, Nebraska is averaging nearly 71 points per game in conference play, which marks the Huskers' highest scoring output in conference play since the 2001-02 season.

Nebraska closed out the regular season with a 93-57 loss against Michigan at home on senior night. The Huskers shot 29 percent in the second half, plagued by 16 turnovers. Nebraska carries a 3-5 all-time record in Big Ten Tournament games, having recorded a 2-1-mark last year, knocked out by Maryland in the quarterfinals. 

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Bracket Picture
Since moving to a five-day format, the 2017 Big Ten Tournament features all 14 teams represented in the bracket with six teams earning either a bye or double bye.

Should the Nittany Lions defeat Nebraska, Penn State will advance to game four of the Big Ten Tournament, set to meet No. 5 seed Michigan State at approximately 2:30 p.m. Thursday, March 9 on the Big Ten Network.

Reach Arielle at ans26@psu.edu or follow on Twitter @arielle_sargent

Buckeyes Clip Penn State at the Buzzer

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By Jack Dougherty, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

 

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Tony Carr did all he could down the stretch, scoring each of the last five points for the Nittany Lions, but his late-game heroics weren't enough.

 

With less than a minute remaining and Penn State down by four, Carr knifed through the middle of the defense and finished a tough layup in traffic to cut Ohio State's lead to two, 69-67. After a Jae'Sean Tate turnover on the other end, it was Carr's turn again.

 

With the shot clock off, Penn State moved the ball swiftly around the outside ticking time off until only 10 seconds remained in the game. Receiving a pass from his former high school teammate Shep Garner on the left wing, he hoisted up a deep 3-pointer that hit nothing but cotton to put Penn State in front by one.

 

On the next possession, Tate redeemed the earlier turnover with a coast-to-coast run and left-handed game winner with three seconds left to seal the 71-70 win for the Buckeyes, as a hushed silence fell over the Bryce Jordan Center crowd.

 

"That final deciding play that we had on offense, Shep made the decision and made the play," Carr said. "I was just trying to be a good teammate and get open. It just means a whole lot to me to know that [my teammates] trust me."

 

While the lack of tallies in the win column don't necessarily reflect the quality of play in the last four games, Carr's teammates have put full faith in him to make plays in the waning minutes when the game is on the line.

 

Just in the last home game against Purdue, Carr scored 14 of the team's final 18 points to bring Penn State back and send the game to overtime. Still, Penn State did not emerge with the win.

 

In Penn State's last 10 games, Carr is averaging 17.5 points and 5.1 assists per game. The freshman has been visibly more confident with the ball as of late, especially with the pressure on at the end of the game.

 

"Kid's a confident kid and most importantly, he's a winner and he's learning how to lead. We have a special player on our hands for sure," head coach Pat Chambers said.

 

Carr's 21 points Tuesday night marked his third straight game with at least 20 points. He also chipped in five rebounds and four assists.

 

Garner also joined Carr with a 20-point game against the Buckeyes. Garner made five threes on a career-high 14 attempts from beyond the arc. Garner scored eight of the team's first 13 points to keep Penn State within striking distance early.

 

"I think trying to get him going early was really good," Chambers said. "Tony did a lot of that. He saw the ball go through the basket a few times."

 

Garner also started off just as hot in the second half with two threes in the team's first three possessions, serving as the catalyst in Penn State's 17-4 run coming out of halftime to grow the lead to nine.

 

"He looked like a different kid tonight," Chambers said. "He looked like he had some energy in his feet, he was ready to play, play with confidence. I think trying to get him going early was really good."

 

While taking fewer shots per game this year, Garner has shown flashes of just how effective he can be, especially from 3-point line. Garner is shooting 35% from deep and leads the team in minutes per game. His role as a captain on such a young team is taking precedence over his role as a scorer, and he's accepted it.

 

"I think we're playing great," Garner said. "I think teams make certain plays and we don't. That's what it comes down to. They are all learning experiences. We take every game as a learning experience win or lose."

 

Tuesday night's late heartbreaking loss to Ohio State was just another chapter of the close losses that have piled up all season long.

 

Penn State has now lost five games decided by four points or less this season, which doesn't include the triple overtime loss to Indiana.

 

With more time, experience and chemistry, those close losses can surely flip into wins. Add a few up and the season is an entirely different story.

 

"That's a good thing for this program," Chambers said. "That's a good thing for the fans out there that these guys care this much. We have winners in that locker room who are invested, who want to get better, and they want to see this thing turn."

Men's Hoops Gameday Live - vs. Ohio State (2/28/17)

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State men's basketball has returned home from the road, set to close out its 2017 home slate hosting Ohio State Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. at the Bryce Jordan Center. Follow along for updated stats and exclusive content. 



Live Blog Men's Hoops Gameday Live - vs. Ohio State (2/28/17)
 

Pregame Reading: Hoops Media Update

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By Arielle Sargent, GoPSUSPorts.com

Hoops Gameday Live Blog - vs. Ohio State

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State men's basketball has returned home from the road, set to close out its 2017 home slate hosting Ohio State Tuesday night at the Bryce Jordan Center. 

Tonight, the Nittany Lions are looking to snap a three-game skid, coming off of an 81-71 loss on the road at Minnesota before hitting the road again to close out the regular season at Iowa Sunday.

Despite the record though, the season's far from over for head coach Patrick Chambers, who noted the Nittany Lions will continue their relentless pursuit to get better at Penn State basketball.

"This is a vicious puzzle that I'm trying to put together for some synergy and some chemistry and to make sure we finish strong, but most importantly continue to get better," Chambers said.

Among the pieces of the puzzle, leading rebounder and shot-blocker Mike Watkins was noticeably absent for most Minnesota outing, grabbing four boards and blocking three shots in 16 minutes on the court against the Golden Gophers.

"Mike was in foul trouble," Chambers said. "According to our analytics, he was plus-9 in 16 minutes."

Watkins' presence is no doubt key to the Nittany Lion defense, changing everything on the court.

"Mike is the main point of our defense and when he's out it's clear to see that it's hard to get rebounds," Carr said. "It kind of makes you buckle down more to keep your guy in front of him just knowing that Mike is not there to save you at the end of the day," Carr said.

As Penn State looks toward its final two games of the season though, Chambers remains focused on finding just the right combination on the court, believing that the Nittany Lions will have to earn the right to a little bit of luck, especially in a few league games that narrowly slipped away. 

"We have to continue to get better and hopefully this thing, the ball starts bouncing our way," Chamber said. "You earn the right to have those lucky bounces, you earn the right to have a little bit of luck to come your way and right now we haven't found that yet." 

Tony Carr Being Tony Carr
Ever since Chambers entrusted Carr with a level of responsibility on par with his veteran captains, the freshman guard has continued to prove why he earned it. Noting that his confidence level is at an all time high, it's not hard see where the certainty is coming from.

Leading the team with 13.2 points per game, Carr is also atop the team standings in assists, having recently set the freshman record with 119 on the year. With at least 20 points in back-to-back games, Carr also dished out seven helpers in both outings. 

"Just kind of figuring out the college game a little bit more, game by game and just finding where I can be effective at," Carr said. "Coaches helping me out and putting me in different places on the floor, at different positions at different times, I would definitely say I'm a very confident player right now."

For Carr, that confidence doesn't come with out extra preparation, as he mentioned taking time to watch film and really identify areas he can be more effective in a different way that most players might approach film study.

"It [watching film] has helped me just so I could figure out where I could get post ups on some guys who are smaller than me or where I can attack certain defenses off the pick and roll and how the big men react to certain moves and things like that," Carr said. "Just watching it and seeing where I can make the game easier for myself and where I can get easier shots."

No Seniors on the Court
While Penn State won't have any seniors on the court at tipoff, the Nittany Lions will honor the contributions of their senior managers, who truly play an important role in the team's success.
 

"I have great relationships with those guys off the court and just being on the road with us, and begin basically everywhere with us, they're not managers, they're kind of part of the team and I'm sure it's going to a special night for them," Carr said. 

More from Carr on the role the #PSUMBB managers play for the Nittany Lions.

What About WHOOP
A few weeks ago, Chambers noted that the team had incorporated WHOOP technology into training. A watch-like apparatus worn on the wrist, WHOOP tracks a variety of metrics to help  athletes reach their top performance potential. For Mike Watkins, part of reaching his highest potential, means getting solid sleep.

"I dealt with it at first, just to test it out, but once you start realizing, 'oh I'm not getting enough sleep,' you see the difference in your performance from when you get enough sleep and when you don't get enough sleep," Watkins said. 

That's made all the difference for Watkins, who went from a three-four-hour sleep schedule to around nine hours of sleep at night. 

"I was all over the place without the WHOOP," Watkins said.

Reach Arielle at ans26@psu.edu or follow on Twitter @arielle_sargent

Mindset Key as Lions Head to Minnesota

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By Arielle Sargent, GoPSUSports.com

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - It's a road warrior mentality for Penn State men's basketball this weekend as the Nittany Lions hit the road, traveling to Minnesota for a Saturday afternoon matchup against the Golden Gophers in Minneapolis.

Coming off a performance recognized by head coach Patrick Chambers as Penn State's toughest yet, the challenge now becomes taking that same mindset out of the Bryce Jordan Center and on the road.

"We competed tonight and this was the hardest that we played all year," Chambers said postgame following a tough loss to No. 14 Purdue earlier this week.

Praising the toughness and physicality of his Nittany Lions, who battled back from behind by as many as 10 to force overtime, the same level of play will be nothing short of crucial come Saturday. 

"We have to have a road attitude, road warriors, we have to have a great mindset, be ready to compete and know that it's not all about making shots," Chambers said.

Two Nittany Lions who didn't exactly struggle to make their shots Tuesday night though, are freshmen Tony Carr and Lamar Stevens, who have both stepped up amidst the final stretch of the regular season. Across the last six games, Carr and Stevens are each averaging 18.2 points per game with 5.5 assists and 6.8 rebounds per game.

Carr led the way with 21 points against the Boilermakers, dishing out seven assists to go along with five rebounds. With Chambers already passing on a leadership role on Carr, he noted that Stevens is a work in progress, with a future leadership role certainly a possibility. 

Stevens finished just behind Carr with 18 points against Purdue, nearly hitting the 20-point mark for what would have been a fifth game scoring 20 or more. Rather, Stevens has registered 20-point outings in three of the last six games, including back-to-back performances against then-No. 21/22 Maryland and Illinois to earn Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors.

Among the stretch, he has come through in the clutch for the Nittany Lions, with a gritty toughness, working inside to finish, often getting to free throw line too. Both Stevens and Carr are also atop the team standings from the charity stripe, shooting 78 percent from the free throw line on the year. 

"He has really stepped up in a lot of different ways," Chambers said, reflecting on Stevens' recent impact. "He's a little bit more vocal in practice, a little bit more vocal in the locker room, vocal in huddles. He is not afraid to put himself out there." 

When he's not locating a lane to drive inside, Stevens has also kept fans on the edge of their seats knocking down a midrange jumper, or even the occasional 3-pointer. 

"I consider myself a shooter now," Stevens joked postgame following the win against the Terps, where he scored 25 points, including his fourth triple of the season.

As Stevens and Carr both noted postgame against Purdue though, although Penn State played harder against the Boilermakers, without a win, there's still a lot of room to for improvement moving forward.

Putting the past away though, Chambers noted that in the days following he's pleased to see the Nittany Lions back into the gym with the right approach. 

"They know we let one slip through our hands a little bit but that's the type of response we want," Chambers said. "We're going to learn from these tough defeats and get back on the horse so to speak, and get back in the practice gym, get some shots up work on our defense and work on our habits."

The formula for the rest of the week included an off day Wednesday and a lighter day Thursday before the Nittany Lions ramped up the intensity today to get adjusted and primed for game speed for Saturday's 3 p.m. tipoff on BTN. 

A Bit About Minnesota
The Golden Gophers enter the matchup on a six-game winning streak, coming off an 89-75 win on the road at Maryland Wednesday. The Minnesota streak is tied for the longest in the conference alongside Big Ten standings leader Purdue. 

In the earlier meeting of the series this year, Penn State captured a dramatic 52-50 win against then-No. 24 Minnesota, when Carr sank a pair of free throws to push the Nittany Lions ahead, drawing a foul on the final push to the basket. Penn State had also trailed by as many as 10 at the half before earning its fourth consecutive win in the series against the Golden Gophers. 

Minnesota is led by leading scorer Nate Mason, who is averaging 16.7 points per game in conference play, which ranks fifth in the Big Ten standings. 

The Nittany Lions limited Mason to just seven points in the mid-January outing at home, while Reggie Lynch led the way with 12 points. Lynch is currently one of the nation's best shot blockers, averaging a team-high 3.1 blocks per game, which is tops in the Big Ten standings and third nationally. 

"They're playing for something, we're playing for something," Chambers said looking toward the matchup.  "It's a big game for us, especially being on the road. so the mindset is going to be critical to everything we do and we've been talking about it."

Future is Bright, Despite OT Loss to No. 14 Purdue

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By Jack Dougherty, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

 

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Purdue head coach Matt Painter said it best following Penn State's 74-70 overtime loss to the Boilermakers Tuesday night at the Bryce Jordan Center.

 

"It was one of those games, and it rarely happens, where a team outplays another one, plays harder and they lose the game especially on their home court," Painter said. "I think the only category we won tonight was the only one that's important and that's the final score."

 

Penn State led the game for 32:32, while Purdue was ahead for only 9:16. The Nittany Lions also outshot the Boilermakers 43 to 40 percent. Purdue entered Tuesday's matchup having been outrebounded just five times on the year as the Nittany Lions also won the battle on the boards, outrebounding the Boilermakers 40-38.

 

Still it was No. 14 Purdue heading home to West Lafayette, Indiana with the win/

 

The Nittany Lions were extremely effective on the defensive end, tipping passes, diving on loose balls, and contesting shots all night, demonstrating the "attitude plays" that Chambers has stressed all year long.  

 

Penn State held the Big Ten's second-leading scorer, Caleb Swanigan, to just 10 points and nine rebounds in the game. Swanigan was averaging 18.9 points per game and a conference-best 13 rebounds before the contest.

 

"I like to think that our guys left Swanigan and [Isaac] Haas leaving here bumped and bruised too, which is good," Chambers said. "

 

With Swanigan and Haas both effective at patrolling the paint for Purdue, not many opponents are able to dominate the Boilermakers inside, but that's exactly what the Nittany Lions were able to accomplish.

 

Penn State outscored Purdue 46-12 in the paint, while also blocking 10 shots, including three from Mike Watkins. Among the Nittany Lion advantage on the glass, Penn State also owned a 14-10 margin in offensive boards, scoring 14 second chance points.

 

Watkins set the tone for the Nittany Lions on the boards in the first half, registering 12 of his 13 boards in the first half. With just under eight minutes left in the first half, Watkins battled Swanigan inside and won three straight offensive rebounds, eventually getting fouled and going to the line after the third.

 

The Lions also tallied 12 steals, the most a team has recorded against Purdue this season. Sophomore Josh Reaves, the Big Ten leader in steals per game, had five steals himself for the third time this year.

 

Ultimately, Purdue looking toward its perimeter shooters to come through, as the Boilermakers finished with 12 triples, shooting 46 percent from behind the arc.

 

The defensive surge though, is exactly what Chambers noted his Nittany Lions had been working on leading up to Tuesday's matchup, specifically pleased with the performances of Watkins, Julian Moore and Lamar Stevens.

 

"Friday we worked on it," Chambers said. "Sunday and Monday we worked on stances, communicating, not giving them an inch and really pressuring the ball. I would like to think for the most part we did a really good job."

 

That type of physicality and toughness is exactly what Chambers was looking for as the result, noting it's the hardest his Nittany Lions have played all year.

 

As hard as Penn State played Tuesday night though, the resounding feeling with the team after the loss is that there is simply no room for moral victories.

 

"If we don't win, effort doesn't mean anything to me," Tony Carr said. "All that matters is winning. It's everything. I'm proud of my team, we fought back hard, but we just have to come out with the 'W' at the end of the game."

 

Carr stuffed the stat sheet for the Lions with 21 points, seven assists, five rebounds, two steals and two blocks. He came through in the clutch late, scoring 14 of Penn State's last 18 points down the stretch, including six consecutive points in the final two minutes of the game to bring the Nittany Lions back from a six-point deficit to tie the score and force overtime.

 

The Boilermakers tried a plethora of defensive experiments on Carr in the final minutes, but he confidently took any defender off the dribble and finished in traffic with ease.

 

Stevens finished closed behind Carr with 18 points, while also grabbing seven rebounds.

 

Including the Purdue matchup, Carr and Stevens are each averaging 18.2 points per game across the last six games. Combined with the defensive efforts of Reaves and Watkins, there's nothing but optimism as Chambers and the staff look toward the future.

 

In just a brief moment of reflection, Chambers quickly pointed out how far this young team has already come.

 

"If you go back to the first time that we played them we weren't even in the game," Chambers said. "That shows so much growth, maturity and where this program and this particular team is headed."

@GOPSUSPORTS

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