As excitement builds after Penn State’s upset win over Ohio State, men’s basketball coach Patrick Chambers wants his team to stay focused on getting better.
He’s meeting with his players and telling them not to get caught up in talk on social media. The Nittany Lions can’t worry about the significance of playing another top-10 team in No. 6 Purdue on Sunday. The coach said they need to maintain focus on improving in film sessions, in the weight room and at practice.
“It’s helped me that last year when you looked in the crystal ball or you looked too far ahead, that’s when we started to slip up,” Chambers said. “That’s when we started to lose games, and one loss led to three. It’s really about staying present, taking care of one possession at a time.”
The Nittany Lions (19-9, 9-6 Big Ten) are set to take on the No. 6 Boilermakers (23-5, 12-3) on the road at 8 p.m. They’re coming off a dominant 79-56 win over the No. 8 Buckeyes in front of 10,981 at the Bryce Jordan Center. It marked Penn State’s sixth win in seven games, a stretch that has propelled the Nittany Lions into the NCAA tournament discussion.
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While Penn State looks to stay hot, Purdue is looking to get back on track after three straight losses. The Boilermakers’ slide started with a one-point loss to Ohio State and continued when they fell to Michigan State by three and to Wisconsin by four. In all three games, Purdue was held to 60.3 points per game — well below a season scoring average of 81.4 points per game, which ranks second in the Big Ten.
Chambers likes how his team has turned to a handful of players to lead the way offensively. In its last six wins, Tony Carr, Mike Watkins, Lamar Stevens and Shep Garner have all paced the Nittany Lions in scoring. Carr turned in the two biggest efforts, with 28 points in the first win over Ohio State and 30 in Thursday’s victory over the Buckeyes.
The Nittany Lions have five players averaging double figures in scoring in Carr (19.6 points per game), Stevens (15.2), Watkins (12.9), Josh Reaves (10.9) and Garner (10.3).
And they’re playing with confidence heading into Sunday.
“As long as we stick on day-to-day and staying present, I think we’re going to continue to get more confidence, but I don’t want that confidence to turn into overly confident or cocky,” Chambers said. “I think watching film, we have to still continue that process of getting better because we can still get better, and that’s what excites me.”
Chambers said he thinks his team can improve defensively against ball screens, in the post and in transition. As his team prepares for Purdue, he said the Nittany Lions will need to be tough on the defensive end. And they’re taking a simple approach into their matchup Sunday.
“There’s always room for improvement, and that’s what we’re striving for,” Chambers said.