Penn State Hoops Bounces Back From Losing Streak With Key Conference Victories
After an emotional win at the Palestra against Iowa to kick off 2020, Penn State men’s basketball’s season took a turn. Pat Chambers’ squad dropped its next three games against Rutgers, Wisconsin, and Minnesota and had even tougher Big Ten opponents looming on the horizon.
While many Nittany Lion fans may have seen the losing steak as the beginning of the end for Penn State’s dream season, Chambers and his team stayed calm entering its games against Ohio State and Michigan.
“Our team really had great belief headed into Ohio State and tonight,” Chambers said following the victory over Michigan. “I think that 75, 80% of the battle is believing in what you do, believing in one another. Playing for each other and being great teammates. I feel like we did that tonight.”
The Nittany Lions’ undisturbed and confident mindset clearly paid off coming out of the three-game skid. They beat the Buckeyes and Wolverines by a combined margin of victory of 23 points, picked up their first road Big Ten win of the season in Ann Arbor, and are now back to 4-4 in conference play.
In a situation that could’ve gone from bad to worse for Penn State, it needed its senior leadership to step up over the course of these past two games. The Nittany Lions clearly got that against Michigan, as Lamar Stevens led the way with 19 points and grabbed nine boards, while graduate senior Curtis Jones Jr. exploded for 18 points in the second half.
While the dominant victory over then-No. 21 Ohio State last Saturday was clearly key for the Nittany Lions, Chambers made it clear that the team needed even more veteran leadership to lead the way in a hostile environment against the Wolverines.
“I thought our seniors stepped up. I talked to Curtis [Jones Jr.] before I put him in and I said to him, ‘These moments are made for seniors. It’s your time,'” Chambers said. “Because I didn’t play him that much in the first half and he really stepped up in a big way when they started making that run. I’m really proud of our group for coming in here. We know how difficult it is to get a win on the road, and in a place like Michigan, it’s always hard.”
Along with Jones Jr. and Stevens, the Nittany Lions have received plenty of big-time scoring from their younger players, most notably Myreon Jones. The sophomore put up 16 points and two steals against the Wolverines Wednesday night, before posting 20 points and grabbing two more steals against Ohio State this past Saturday.
In a situation that was clearly all hands on deck, the Nittany Lions have gotten production from every corner of their roster over the course of these past two games. From college basketball veterans like Jones Jr. to freshman Seth Lundy, or even a star such as Stevens, everyone executed their role perfectly during a time when Penn State needed it most.
The Nittany Lions now have quite a bit of time off before welcoming Indiana to the BJC next Wednesday, January 29. The Hoosiers are currently 14-4 overall and hold a 4-3 record in the Big Ten.
For now, Chambers is ready to keep his team fresh both physically and mentally before its brutal conference schedule continues next week.
“We do have some guys that are bumped and bruised. Some guys are nicked up. So I think it’s a good time for that. I think it’s our approach as coaches and their approach as players,” Chambers said. “Really understanding what we have to do, shortening practice, shortening film sessions, making sure we have fresh minds and fresh bodies. Really about that mental fitness.”
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