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Penn State 60, Rutgers 43
January 27, 2018
Bryce Jordan Center (University Park, Pa.)
Patrick Chambers | Penn State Head Coach
I thought it was a win-win today. With THON, the THON game, and what THON means to me, personally, and to my program and our players. I'm blessed, I have four healthy children that are running around the halls right now. I won't forget that. So whenever, I can do anything for THON, I'm going to do it. The fact that we got a win is nice too. So it was definitely a great day for Penn Staters. What a great crowd, that was outstanding. My throat is killing me because they couldn't hear me. That's the way I hope, moving forward, that we keep coming out and having crowds like that, that would be fantastic.
How important was it to play well, in a really exciting sort of fashion, especially in the second half when you have the people in the seats?
PC: It was important. Playing Rutgers is extremely difficult. They make you grind, they want a possession game, they make it ugly, and for the first half they did. And it was nice for us to open up the second half, get some separation, some dunks, some three's; that's what fans want to see and for me, I want stops and rebounds, which we did as well. But it was great that they came out and saw us play really well in the second half.
You mentioned THON, you have kids, what was going through your head and your heart when that little girl was singing the anthem?
PC: I started singing. Unfortunately, and I'm embarrassed to say this, sometimes I don't, and I sang today. I think a lot of people in the Bryce Jordan Center started to sing. For me, that was everything. It was an emotional beginning for sure. To know that she had the courage and the guts to get in front of 13,000 and change, get up there and sing and do the best she can, and then everybody joined in to help her along. That's what Penn Staters are all about.
How would you characterize Josh's [Reaves] performance today?
PC: Josh Reaves, that's who he is. Obviously, we missed him, but a lot of guys got better in his absence. Unfortunately, that's sometimes how you learn to build trust, try some different lineups and do different things. But he led and he wasn't going to let us lose that game. He started the second half and his energy I think filtered through those four guys. Tony Carr played 39 minutes, and he played 39 minutes with Ohio State 48 hours ago. So I think that really helped us.
In the face of some offensive struggles in the first half, what did you feel like the defense did to generate that offense?
PC: I think we did a pretty good job and I give Rutgers credit, I think they did a good job as well. But we really drew that line in the sand, and we were gonna get stops, and I challenged this team the last two days about rebounding. This is one of the best rebounding teams in the Big Ten, this is one of the best defensive teams in the Big Ten. We have to mature and show some growth, do simple great, and make sure to put a hat on a hat, a body on a body, to make sure we're the guys who are going to get a rebound, not them
Mike [Watkins] seemed to struggle offensively in the first half, what did you tell him to calm him down because he seemed to get better shots off in the second half?
PC: He wants to play so well every time he's out and he wants to help his teammates. Sometimes, he gets a little frustrated and emotional and when he misses free throws, he can't get that out of his head. So I knew we needed to go to him early, and we did, and he kind of erased that memory, and he played really good basketball. He had 19 rebounds. He played a really good basketball game. I thought his defense was much, much better than it has been in the last two game.
It's not a surprise how important Josh [Reaves] is to this team, but do you think it's been undersold how much he's been missed?
PC: Maybe. I think Tony [Carr] really stepped up, I thought Lamar [Stevens] really stepped up in his absence, Shep [Garner], Mike [Watkins]. It always works out. We needed Nazeer [Bostick] and Jamari [Wheeler] to get those minutes. To continue the process of getting better, and seeing where we can go with this team, and seeing how we can use the bench and utilize our strengths, and I think we're starting to see that. If Josh wasn't out, Deivis [Zemgulis] doesn't get a start at Ohio State. Now we got ourselves a really good junior who's big, strong, and has been around. He knows what he's doing.
Do you think Tony's [Carr] taking that next step mentally in terms of shots that he wants to get? Because it seems like he's better when he doesn't have to force it, but there's obviously a lot of areas on the floor where he can score from.
PC: No doubt. I think he's taking the right shots, I think he's taking good shots, I think he's finding a balance now. With Josh [Reaves] being back, there are a lot more guys out there he can really trust to make shots for him. So I think he's playing at a really good tempo right now. I'm not going to say pace because he didn't play faster. I don't want him to play faster. But I think he's taking really good shots. His energy, his posture, his body language, have been fantastic the last week. And he has to keep that going, so I have to agree that he's taking a big step forward here.
How much did you think limiting Rutgers' second-chance opportunities was a key for you guys in staying in the game and keeping that 10-point lead much of the second half?
PC: I thought it was huge because we had 16 turnovers. If they're missing that initial, they usually get that secondhand shot. So for us to have that many turnovers, which we'll watch film and clean that up, we couldn't let them get on the glass. And if we did, this would've been a much tighter game down the stretch.
You touched on [Deivis] Zemgulis' role and how being able to trust him as a junior and how he knows what he's doing; what does that do for you, to have an extra body that you can rely on?
PC: You're exactly right. He's a bigger body, he's 6'6, he's strong, he has
Josh Reaves | G | JR
First and foremost, how does it feel to be back on the court?
JR: It feels great being back with my teammates. There's no better feeling in the world. I love them and just feeling the embrace they gave me before the Ohio State game, I knew how much love and care there is. Everyone is in this together and there's no better feeling.
What was it like when you were unable to play? Can you tell us how difficult it was? Conversely, coming back with two games like this, how important was that to you to make this statement coming back?
JR: During practices, I was just hoping I could do what I needed to do to get my teammates ready to play other teams and get them better. As far as being back, I'm really grateful and happy to be back with my team. There's no other team I'd rather play for and no other school I'd rather play for. It's just a great feeling being back with them.
How much of a learning experience was that for you to have something taken from you?
JR: Everyone says it's a cliché saying that you don't know what you have until it's gone, but it's very true. I'm just chipping away trying to get back and my teammates did a great job being positive. We're on a two-game win streak now and everyone's really happy and we're just going to keep it going.
Talk about the environment, 13000+ out there and the energy and what the BJC feels like from your perspective on the court?
JR: I've never seen it like that before. I've never been to a wrestling match before but I feel like it was something like that. Just knowing we were out here and all those people were out here for a cause. Coach [Patrick Chambers] said in the locker room it's a win-win. We have to win but we were able to show kids with that type of illness that we were going to get it done for them. I hope they had a really good time at the game and happy we could put on a show for them.
Coach [Patrick Chambers] was talking about the mental health of the team with the end of the season coming up. Just talk about where the team is from your perspective?
JR: Playing in the Big Ten is never going to be easy; it's more mental than physical. Everybody in the country is tired, but at the end of the day if you have that mental toughness you can fight through anything. Coach [Patrick Chambers] is doing a really good job at instilling that into us.
You guys only gave up 43 points to Rutgers tonight. What do you think the key was to your defense and why you were so successful?
JR: We were just communicating, talking, pointing, doing everything we could to help each other out. They're a very good team, very physical team and we managed to get a win. They're a very big team with 7-footers coming off the bench and they play very well together.
Do you think the mindset going into this game against a big-time program like Michigan State on the road might be a little different coming off a win against Ohio State on the road? What do you think that does to your mindset?
JR: We're just going to play the same way we do. Coach says we're going to play Penn State basketball for 40 minutes and that's what we try to do. As far as playing against Ohio State and getting a win there, we're just going to play the same way. That's about it. We're going to play hard for 40 minutes and see how the game goes.
I have to give Penn State a lot of credit. They've done a really good job. They have a lot of good players. We needed to just keep grinding this game, but we couldn't make a shot and it kind of got away from us a little bit. Sometimes our inability to score affects us on the defensive end. I give Penn State a lot of credit. I know coming in they just beat a great Ohio State team and were playing great. With the talent they've assembled, they've done a really good job, so we have to play better than that on the road.
The first half - 28 points with some really good defense. Second half, it seemed to unravel a little bit. What do you think happened?
SP: I mean we only scored 32 points in the second half. I mean we threw them the ball a lot. It was clear that we had some offensive issues. These guys are better shooters and offensive players than that, but sometimes you have a night like this. We are on the road, playing a good team. We couldn't seem to be able to get the ball to go in the basket. Our defense was fine. We held them to 60 points and we threw them the ball four or five times down the stretch. We could have kept them in the 50's. Our offense has to generate more points for us.
You benched Corey [Sanders] for around nine minutes in the first half. Was he frustrated or...
SP: No. I just went with that group that came out, had great energy and gave us that lift. I coach by that. He played about 28 minutes. He usually averages about 30 minutes. Souf [Mensah] and that group just gave us good energy, so I went with that group, and they got us going back into the basketball game.
Twelve turnovers in the second half to four in the first. What was the difference there?
SP: Yeah. I think frustration down the stretch and that led to points by them. I mean we've been good at not turning the ball over. Obviously, late in that game, we turned the ball over three or four times. Normally, we average 10 or 11, so those would be plus four that department.
Eugene [Omoruyi] had nine points, went 3-for-4 shooting. How do you think he is doing in that three spot?
SP: He's adjusting to it. We could do different things with him in there. He always plays hard. We put him in tough spots sometimes and now he has to learn a whole new position. We dearly miss Mike [Williams]. He was another guy that played multiple positions for us, but we are figuring it out.
How is it having Mike [Williams] just around the team, even though he is not able to play?
SP: I love having him
Issa [Thiam] went through a stretch where he missed 12 or 13 straight threes. Even though the game was kind of out of reach, how important is it for his confidence?
SP: I thought he kept plugging away. We told him that his shots were going to fall. I thought he was getting some pretty good looks, too. He forced a couple, but he got some wide-open ones and he's just got to take those. As you saw in the Iowa game, he made them. Tonight, he didn't, but he stayed the course and got to the rim a couple of times. He scored in some different ways that he doesn't generally do.
About halfway through the Big Ten schedule, eight games left to go. What do you take out of the first half?
SP: As I always say, it's a tremendous league. Penn State is terrific. We played Michigan State twice. All of them are ranked
Teams have really hurt Penn State on the offensive glass but you were only able to get two. Do you think that was a lost opportunity or did they do something really well?
SP: I thought they blocked out well, but we are a good offensive rebounding team. I mean we talked about it at halftime, we didn't have one offensive rebound. We had one team offensive rebound, so not one individual guy had that. To their credit, they blocked out. We have to make sure we are going in because that's a way that we can score and get teams in foul trouble.
What are your thoughts on [Mike] Watkins?
SP: I tell you, he has really improved. He was a good player last year, but he's even better this year. They have a lot of weapons. They have [Shep] Garner and [Josh] Reaves who can score in multiple ways. [Lamar] Stevens is tough. They have a lot of good players. You can't just key in on one of them. He's much improved, too.
[Mamadou] Doucoure went 3-for-6 and he only had three fouls in 21 minutes. How far has he grown, especially in that department?
SP: Well, I mean huge. I think you saw some of the things. I mean, I love the way that he attacked that rim even though he missed that dunk. He showed some things. The most important thing is that he's on the court. He was able to stay out of foul trouble. I mean he's a freshman, so he is only going to get better and better with the more minutes that we have him on the court.