It doesn’t show in Penn State’s record, coach Patrick Chambers said, but he feels this year’s team improved.
Chambers also thinks his team “so darn close” after losing six games by one possession or in overtime in Big Ten play, contributing to the Nittany Lions’ 14-17 record overall and 6-12 mark in the conference.
The coach believes those games will go Penn State’s way next year, and he’ll be back to lead the Nittany Lions in 2017-18, athletic director Sandy Barbour told StateCollege.com Sunday.
Chambers appreciated the support from Barbour.
“I’m truly grateful because there’s still a lot of work to be done,” Chambers said at the team’s media availability Monday. “This has truly been a journey and a process for me and my staff.”
Penn State finished the regular season on a five-game losing streak — capped by a 90-79 loss to Iowa on Sunday — and heads into the Big Ten tournament as the No. 13 seed. The Nittany Lions will face No. 12 seed Nebraska (12-18, 6-12) in the first round of the Big Ten tournament at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday in Washington, D.C.
Though the Nittany Lions finished at the bottom of the Big Ten standings, Chambers saw progress throughout the season. He said his trio of talented first-year players Tony Carr, Lamar Stevens and Mike Watkins are “completely different players” than they were in the season-opening loss to Albany.
“That’s my job as a leader and that’s my job as a coach to get these guys better,” Chambers said. “I think we’re doing that.”
All three players have impressed during their rookie campaigns as Carr and Stevens are the team’s top two scorers and Watkins leads the team in rebounding and blocks.
Despite the losing season, Carr hasn’t lost sight of the vision for program’s future.
“When I came here, I knew this wasn’t going to be like an overnight process of us just being one of the best teams in the Big Ten my first year,” Carr said. “Everything’s a process. You don’t just jump into something and make it in one day. I knew coming here that it wasn’t going to be all roses and giggles.
“It was going to be some tough times.”
During the Nittany Lions’ five-game losing streak, they lost in overtime to Purdue and by one point to Ohio State.
Chambers said inexperience contributed to the close losses, but he thinks his players will learn from those games.
“We’re going to be that much better for it,” Chambers said.