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Penn State Basketball 6-1 Through Hectic Opening Stretch

Early season tournaments in NCAA basketball allow coaches plenty of looks to find out what their teams are made of. Penn State just finished up the hard-charging front portion of its schedule with five games over an eight-day span; all but one of those games were played on the road.

Following the busy early going, coach Patrick Chambers is just relieved to finally get a break.

“I’m not so sure it was helpful, we needed practice,” Chambers said at his weekly press conference. “We’re giving up too many points, we’re ninth in the Big Ten right now. I think we played some very good competition. I don’t know if the fans out there understand the good competition we played… We need practice time right now, so it couldn’t come fast enough for me.”

In that time, the Nittany Lions learned how to close out in close games. They opened the Charleston Classic tournament with a double overtime loss to Charlotte but bounced back and are currently riding a four-game winning streak. Each of those wins were by single digits, including two gritty victories against Akron and Bucknell last week.

Chambers found out the true depth of his backcourt with contributions coming not only from Big Ten Player of the Week D.J. Newbill, but fellow backcourt mate freshman Shep Garner. The Lions have also gotten valuable minutes off the bench from guards Geno Thorpe and John Johnson.

Garner may be one of the players who has benefitted the most. The freshman has started from day one and is averaging 10.9 points per game, the second highest mark on the team. Garner is also shooting 45.7 percent from behind the arc.

The Philadelphia native said that though it’s been an adjustment getting used to the college game, he believes the amount of early games only helped the process.

“I’m adjusting well,” Garner said. “I’m still getting used to you know, every possession being dialed in, but I’m getting better.”

Though Chambers looks forward to getting back on the practice floor in the Bryce Jordan Center, he said the early games and close finishes have proved his squad’s mental fortitude.

“I think what it did for us was show our mental toughness,” Chambers said. “We’ve got a tough bunch and I think that stems from D.J. and Ross Travis. Veterans and seniors can help you do that.”

The Lions pick things back up on Wednesday against Virginia Tech in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

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