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Feb. 28, 2013
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Although he always says you have two choices in life when it comes to attitude, what head coach Patrick Chambers really means to say is that you have one choice.
Anything less than a positive attitude is simply unacceptable and not good enough for the Nittany Lion basketball program.
From the day he arrived to campus on June 3, 2011, Chambers began laying the foundation for what his expectations were for Penn State Basketball. The overriding theme from the start revolved around a positive attitude.
"You are going to see some great basketball and some great attitude, positive energy and a lot of exciting things," Chambers said in his first GoPSUsports.com interview. "We are going to play hard. We are going to compete and we are going to make you proud."
What separates Chambers from just about everyone else in the sports world isn't the fact that he preaches confidence and positivity as the foundation for success on the basketball floor. It's the fact that regardless of the team's record or what type of adversity it faces, the approach does not change and his team never wavers.
The clear evidence of that was not just on Wednesday night when the Lions rallied from 15 down in the second half to upset fourth-ranked Michigan. It was in the weeks and months leading up to the well-earned win over the Wolverines.
"We were on a 14 game losing streak and they still came with a great approach," Chambers said. "They didn't lose the fight or the fire, and I knew we were going to win one down the line."
Wednesday's victory was a long time coming for a group of relentless Nittany Lions. Chambers has been saying for weeks that he felt like the Lions were close to turning the corner. They just needed the ball to bounce their way and execute some of what Chambers calls "winning plays."
"Like I said, we've been close, and it just feels so good to taste victory again," Chambers said. "It's been so long and it's great to feel a win. I'm happy for them because they work so hard. I wouldn't say validation, but they put the work in and we're still looking to get better."
There is certainly some fortune and luck involved with winning big games in the rigorous Big Ten, but you make your own luck with work ethic night-in and night-out on the practice floor. The Nittany Lions have been practicing well for weeks. They have been in the gym putting up extra shots. They have been in the weight room getting extra lifting sessions. They have been watching extra film.
"It feels really good to come out and never give up," said guard D.J. Newbill. "Our team never held our head on any game. We kept fighting, kept to our principals and listened to coach. We believed in our foundation and it finally paid off."
Wednesday's win was no accident because the Nittany Lions earned every ounce of the thrilling performance. Chambers knew his team could win a big game like it did because they have been going above and beyond the call of duty in the quest to get better.
"We're just trying to develop great habits and keep a great attitude," Chambers said. "We come in every day with great energy and I kept telling these guys that it's only October 17 in my book. We've got time to keep getting better and I think we're seeing that every day. They're getting more comfortable out there."
Chambers joked after the game that he just wanted a minute or two to celebrate the victory before shifting focus to Saturday's trip to Minnesota to face a Gopher team that knocked off No. 1 Indiana on Tuesday night. Penn State has three regular season games left before the Big Ten Tournament begins on March 14.
The fact of the matter is that the Nittany Lions have been playing their best basketball of the season in recent weeks, and it could not be coming at a better time. Penn State has been a confident team since practice began in October, but getting over the hump against a top five team will send the Lions into the final weeks of the season knowing that with continued effort on the practice floor, in the film room, in the weight room and execution of the gameplan they can win any game on the schedule.
"I think we work so hard and we are never going to give up," junior guard Jermaine Marshall. "We believe that we can win any game. We have to give credit to them. They have a lot of great players. We have confidence in ourselves, and confidence in coach. We believe we were close and it feels good to say that we earned that win."
Whether the Nittany Lions are 14-1 or 1-14 they will always look the same under Coach Chambers.
He won't accept anything less from his players. The attitude has been present from day one, and it's not going anywhere. It's here to stay.