After Rutgers Loss, Penn State Looks Onward to Michigan

Two days after our worst nightmare became a realityPat Chambers and the Penn State basketball team were back at the Jordan Center attempting to regroup following two consecutive road defeats to begin conference play.

Penn State’s letdown in Piscataway was its worst performance of the season, and saw the Nittany Lions shoot 28.8 percent from the field against an abysmal Rutgers side. Chambers was quick to note that an unexpected loss was bound to happen.

“It should have come in the non-conference. We should have lost to Cornell,” Chambers said.  “We haven’t really faced adversity in the non-conference. Now you’re faced with an 0-2 start, a little adversity.”

Penn State also began its 2013-14 campaign with two straight losses to open conference play, then continued to lose four more before turning things around to the tune of 6-6 play down the stretch. If the Nittany Lions hope to continue to play into March, they’ll need to right the ship now.

“We can’t get too low on these losses,” said D.J. Newbill, who shot 4-17 against Rutgers en route to 14 points, his second lowest output of the year. “I wouldn’t put our team this year in perspective of our team last year.”

Chambers highlighted the abundance of three-point attempts and poor rebounding as factors of the loss. The Lions shot 5-for-27 from behind the arc — a number that “shocked” Chambers — including 1-for-7 from trigger-happy freshman point guard Shep Garner. The Knights out-rebounded the Nittany Lions 44-36, including 13-8 on the offensive end.

“We got to play a little bit harder,” said Chambers, raising his voice to the small media contingency circling a roundtable at which he also sat. “We should have those habits already.”

The fourth-year coach often preaches the Penn State basketball tenets of defense and rebounding. For the most part, Chambers was pleased with his team’s intensity on the defensive end. Rutgers only made four field goals in the second half.

“As good of an offensive night we had against Wisconsin, we had as poor of an offensive night against Rutgers, but still had a chance to win the game,” he said.

Following the loss, users took to Twitter and related social media platforms to voice their displeasure with both Chambers and his team’s performance. Much like James FranklinChambers said it’s his job to “cocoon” his players from outside noise.

“I got a couple doozies that I shall not share,” Chambers chuckled of the less-than-positive messages that found his inbox Saturday night. “And I read them, I do.”

Chambers said that Franklin and athletic director Sandy Barbour often text him following wins or losses. Both did after the tough defeat against Rutgers, urging him to stay the course. “That’s the type of support this community gives you,” he said.

Up next for Penn State is a Tuesday night home showdown with Michigan. John Beilein’s normally potent team (8-6, 1-1) has struggled this year, most notably losing four straight non-conference games including shocking home defeats to the New Jersey Institute of Technology and Eastern Michigan. Caris LeVert (6-foot-7) and Zak Irvin (6-foot-6) are both large guards each averaging 14.6 points per game that could prove trouble.

Over the course of his 15 minutes with the media, Chambers hardly mentioned Michigan once. According to Newbill, Tuesday’s key will be forgetting about the two losses in the span of a week.

“You think about it that night, the next day you watch film and try to get better, and then move on,” he said. “In the Big Ten you play every two or three days.”

If Monday’s practice was any indiction, they should be just fine.

“Today,” Newbill said, “we got our mojo back.”

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Ben Berkman

State College, PA

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