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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.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

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.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

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."

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony    

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.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Effort, Attitude Lead Nittany Lions Past No. 4 Iowa

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Head coach Patrick Chambers said it when he talked with the media on Monday afternoon, just two days before Penn State's showdown with No. 4 Iowa in the Bryce Jordan Center.

At this point in February, the head coach of the Nittany Lions expects his team to begin playing its best basketball of the season. Chambers said that his teams typically put together performances in the final month of a season that illustrate a maturing group.

February is the month where freshmen become sophomores, sophomores become juniors, juniors play like seniors and the senior class competes with a sense of urgency.

Wednesday's 79-75 triumph over the Big Ten-leading Hawkeyes (20-6, 10-3 Big Ten) was Exhibit A of all the things Chambers and the Nittany Lions (13-13, 4-9 Big Ten) envision as the season heads into the stretch run.

"We worked really hard on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday," said Chambers. "I told them that once they put the work in, they have to go out and enjoy it. They went out and shared the ball, and enjoyed it. Their huddles were great and they were dialed in."

What steered Wednesday's victory were the contributions of each Nittany Lion in the rotation. But the star of the night was senior forward Donovon Jack, who played the game of his life to help will the Lions past the Hawkeyes.

Jack finished with a career-high 19 points on a blistering 8-for-9 shooting effort. He also had five rebounds, two blocks and an assist.

"It means a lot. But, I couldn't have done it without my teammates," said Jack. "I fed off of BT (Brandon Taylor) a lot, then Shep (Garner) passed me the ball and that's all I could hope for. It's a big win for us. We just have to keep grinding and keep the momentum here for us."

Jack scored nine points in each half and came up with big buckets when the Lions needed them.  Wednesday's effort was long overdue for a guy who has worked relentlessly to become a key figure in the Penn State rotation. For Chambers, Wednesday's game was no fluke for Jack because he sees how much work the Reading native puts in during long hours in the practice gym.

"Donovon wants to be a great player and see this program succeed," said Jack. "He committed to us during a very difficult time for Penn State. He stayed loyal to us over the last four years and he just kept working and didn't give up. A couple of days ago, we had a lengthy meeting about what I expect from him moving forward. He played with incredible confidence, poise and composure. He was ready to make that big jump tonight."

Jack and his fellow seniors set the tone for the effort in Wednesday night's victory in the three practice days following the team's 70-54 setback at Nebraska.

"We came back in on Sunday and we went after it," said Chambers. "Those seniors went after it because they didn't want to let it happen again. It's very true-you practice the way you play. Our practice translated to the game tonight. Brandon Taylor's leadership over the last three days was just incredible. He would not be denied in his last three days and tonight."

Taylor scored 18 points, pulled down nine boards, tallied three assists and notched one block. The New Jersey native has scored 18 or more in seven of Penn State's Big Ten games. Taylor's scoring has been critical to the team's success, but his leadership is invaluable.

"Taylor is a much better player now then he has ever been," said Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery. "I think that has made a huge impact tonight and in other games like Indiana."

Penn State trailed 8-0 out of the gate against Iowa and did not score until the 15:22 mark of the first half. The team's effort never wavered, and the Lions battled back.

A string of Shep Garner threes proved to be the turning point for the night, though. Garner nailed back-to-back threes mid-way through the first half and added a jumper and two more long balls on later possessions to give the sophomore guard 14 points in a span of 6:18. His fourth 3-pointer at the 7:17 mark ignited a 10-0 run from the Nittany Lions, who in the midst of the surge claimed a 26-25 lead with 5:07 on the clock in the first half.

It would be a lead the Blue and White never relinquished. Iowa got as close as two on two separate occasions and within three in the final seconds, but Penn State punched back every time the Hawkeyes mounted a charge. The Lions finished off the game by making 16 of their last 18 free throw attempts in the final 4:17.

With five regular season games to play, the Nittany Lions still have a lot of work to do. Penn State has three home games in its last five, but next up is a trip to Rutgers on Saturday.

"After a win like this, the key is not getting too high. We're happy about this win, but we got another game," said Taylor. "We leave on Saturday, so we can't just focus on this win. We got another game coming, another Big Ten team, and we play them away, so we have to go there and get the job done there, too."

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Men's Hoops Gameday 2015-16 - Penn State vs. Iowa (2/17/16)

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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 Wednesday for a matchup against No. 4 Iowa.

Live Blog Men's Hoops Gameday 2015-16 - Penn State vs. Iowa (2/17/16)

Nittany Lions Looking to Remain Confident

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lion basketball team (12-13, 3-9 Big Ten) returns to action inside the confines of the Bryce Jordan Center on Wednesday for a matchup against No. 4 Iowa (20-5, 11-2 Big Ten).

Confidence is the key ingredient as Penn State looks for its second-straight victory at home. The Lions downed Indiana in the BJC on Feb. 6 before a bye week leading up to the trip to Nebraska. After a strong start, a cold second half hindered the Nittany Lions in a 70-54 setback to the Cornhuskers.

Despite the loss, Penn State entered the practice week with a short-term memory and remains optimistic that it can compete with anyone on its home floor.

"We're not scoring the ball very well on the road...That's got to change, obviously," said head coach Patrick Chambers. "The good news is that we only have two more road games left. We definitely need contributions on the offensive end from more guys to help out (Brandon) Taylor."

Senior forward Brandon Taylor has been outstanding for Penn State all season long. The New Jersey native is averaging 16.5 points and 6.1 rebounds per game. He has scored in double-figures 22 times this season, which includes 20-plus points in three of the last seven games. The numbers that stands out on Taylor's season stat line are free throw attempts.

"Getting to the free throw line can take pressure off myself," said Taylor. "It puts a lot of pressure on a defense, and then teams will have to start doubling down. That opens up the floor for everybody else. And then guys can start hitting open shots."

Taylor has attempted just eight free throws in Penn State's last five games. Collectively, the Nittany Lions are looking to do a better job getting to the foul line and alleviating some pressure off of the jump shots.

"We've got to get to the free throw line, and that stops the bleeding," said Chambers. "We've got to drive the ball with toughness and go up strong. I think sometimes what happens is, you are trying to create contact and then you miss layups."

The Lions are 8-3 in games where they have attempted at least 20 free throws in a game. At Nebraska, the Blue and White attempted just nine.

Iowa enters the trip to Happy Valley atop the Big Ten standings following its win over Minnesota on Sunday. The Hawkeyes remain one of the best teams in the nation at taking care of the basketball. Iowa is No. 4 nationally in assist/turnover ratio (1.67), No. 8 in fewest turnovers per game (9.8), No. 17 in turnover margin (plus-3.3).

Senior Jarrod Uthoff and junior Peter Jok are Iowa's top scorers. A national player of the year candidate, Uthoff is No. 2 in the Big Ten in scoring at18.8 points per game. He is also averaging a Big Ten-best 2.96 blocked shots per game. Jok is averaging 15.8 points. Both Uthoff and Jok are shooting 42 percent from three-point range this season.  Iowa is second in the Big Ten at 80.3 points per game.

The Hawkeyes have won eight of the last 11 in the all-time series, but nine of the last 13 meetings between the two teams have been decided by single-digits. Tip is slated for 6:30 on Wednesday with TV coverage on BTN.

"Being home and knowing the rims and the arena like we do, I hope it gives us confidence that we can succeed, and we can go on a little bit of a run here to finish out the season," said Chambers. "Typically, our teams finish strong and they become the best teams they can be in February. I'm banking on that, still."

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Nittany Lions Back on the Road at Nebraska

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - No one said the grind of a Big Ten hoops schedule would be easy. The Nittany Lion basketball team (12-12, 3-8 Big Ten) will head on the road for the eighth time in six weeks when it meets Nebraska (13-12, 5-7 Big Ten) in Lincoln on Saturday.

This week, however, has allowed the Nittany Lions to push the reset button and earn some much-needed extra rest. Penn State took a couple days off earlier in the week during the season's only bye. The time off allowed the team to get a little healthier and regroup for the final run towards the Big Ten Tournament.

But the week didn't slow the momentum from a 68-63 victory over Big Ten-leading Indiana last Saturday night. The Nittany Lions made big plays down the stretch with confidence to power past the Hoosiers.

"I think it's great for us to see guys hit shots like they did in crunch time or get stops on defense," said senior forward Brandon Taylor. "It shows us that when it comes down to it, they can get the job done. That's something that we are trying to string together and add on to the games we have left on the schedule."

"The team is in a good place after a great win," said head coach Patrick Chambers. "They are eager to get back into the gym. They are eager to practice. They are eager to get better and shoot...But we've got to move forward and respond."

Playing 40 minutes of Penn State Basketball has been the message from Coach Chambers throughout the season. The Lions have been close to a complete basketball game all year. It came against Indiana. And a big piece to the success Penn State had on Saturday boiled down to guys making the plays they are expected to make. No one on the floor tried to do more than he was asked to do. But the group made the key plays - on both ends - when they needed to.

"We all understand our roles. Certain people do certain things a lot better than others," said freshman Josh Reaves. "We've been a lot more unselfish recently, too. When someone has an open shot, we have guys passing it to a guy who is even more wide open. That really helps us grow."

Reaves returned to the action against Indiana after being sidelined for six games due to illness.

Attention now shifts towards Nebraska. The Cornhuskers won four-straight Big Ten games in January, but have since dropped four of their last five outings. Nebraska has been without its second-leading scorer, Shavon Shields, since he took a hard fall in last Saturday's 87-63 win over Rutgers. Shields' status for Saturday's game remains uncertain.

Junior guard Andrew White III is Nebraska's leading scorer at 16.9 points per game. White is shooting 50 percent from the field and 41 percent from three-point land. Shields is averaging 15.7 tallies per contest and leads the team in assists with 70 on the season (2.8 per game).

Associate head coach Keith Urgo, who is on the scouting duties of Nebraska this weekend, said the keys for Penn State on Saturday will come down to turnovers, keeping the Huskers off the offensive glass and driving the basketball on offense to get in free throw situations. Tip is slated for 6 p.m. on ESPNU.

"We are just scratching the surface. This team can still get a lot better," said Chambers.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony


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