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Despite Slow Shooting Performance, Penn State Hoops Shuts Down Indiana On Defensive End

During Penn State men’s basketball’s three-game losing skid, there were times when it certainly seemed that missed shots were having a clear effect on the team’s defensive effort overall. Now on a three-game winning streak, the Nittany Lions have changed that narrative.

Pat Chambers’ team shot 24-64 from the field Wednesday night against Indiana, and put up an even worse 11-23 line from the charity stripe. While there was clearly nothing pretty about the offense, Penn State still managed to finish with a season-high 15 steals. Lamar Stevens, Myreon Jones, and Jamari Wheeler each had four.

For Chambers, his team’s efforts on defense and on the glass were what stood out to him the most against the Hoosiers.

“The fact that they didn’t allow missing shots affect their effort on the defensive end is something that I’m going to praise and focus on. That to me is everything,” Chambers said. “The fact that we rebounded tonight, [Indiana is] one of the best rebounding teams not only in the country, I think they were top seven in KenPom, but number one or two in the Big Ten. For us to be able to defend and rebound without fouling for the most part is critical.”

Playing a tough, gritty brand of defense without committing too many fouls is difficult, but the Nittany Lions mastered that against the Hoosiers. Mike Watkins and Stevens have both had their issues with foul trouble over the course of this season, but the pair only had two and one personal fouls, respectively, to finish the night.

Penn State managed to make just about everything hard for Indiana on the offensive end. By the second half, getting the ball up the floor, finishing inside, and earning open looks were all a challenge for the Hoosiers. You don’t have to look to far to see this, as the game was tied 28-28 at halftime, but Indiana was held to just 21 points in the final 20 minutes and lost by a 15-point margin.

Especially in that second half, it felt as if every pass the Archie Miller’s team attempted was getting tipped or swatted at in the lane by a Penn State defender. Chambers mentioned after the game that’s the brand of basketball he wants his group to be playing every single night.

“It was just really about our foundation. That’s what Penn State basketball is, and we’re supposed to defend and rebound,” Chambers said. “We’re supposed to play hard. We’re supposed to be jumping to the ball and communicating. When we’re loud and communicating, we’re just building so much trust out there that guys are in the right spots, and then they’re anticipating because they have a clear head.”

“You know the anticipation out there to have 15 steals is pretty remarkable because we haven’t had that many steals in a while,” Chambers added.

While the offense wasn’t coming too easy for Penn State either, the Nittany Lions made sure to turn their lockdown defensive play into some buckets, as they finished the night with 21 points off turnovers. No moment was bigger than when Stevens corralled a tipped pass and found John Harrar wide open on the other end of the floor for a massive dunk. The slam was clearly the exclamation point on a huge second half scoring run for Penn State.

For the Nittany Lions, they’ll take wins any way they can get them in a brutal Big Ten. As they now turn their focus to a trip to Nebraska on Saturday, the team feels good about their mindset overall.

“It’s our players. They’re bought in. There’s great leadership, and there’s great connectivity in the locker room on a real family atmosphere. There’s a lot of love and trust in there, and I think that’s been the difference,” Chambers said. “We took a couple speed bumps there, and then we came out of it nicely. We have to take it one game at a time, and we’re going to a really difficult road arena on Saturday night.”

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About the Author

Will Pegler

Will is a junior majoring in digital and print journalism and is Onward State's sports editor. He is from Darien, Connecticut and is a lifelong Penn State football fan. He loves a good 80's comedy movie, Peaky Blinders, The Office, and the New York Yankees and Giants. You can catch some of his ridiculous sports takes on his Twitter @gritdude and yell at him on his email [email protected]

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