STATE COLLEGE – As the season continues to dwindle without a Penn State victory, a Valentine’s Day match up with Iowa might be it’s best opportunity to stop the 11-game conference skid.
Monday, the team announced that Patrick Chambers would personally donate $10 to the Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon (THON) for every student that attends the game.
The contest will be televised on ESPNU at 9 p.m.
“It’s special for these students for what they’re doing for pediatric cancer,” Chambers said. “I just wanted to be a part of it in some way.”
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The second-year head coach lamented that he wouldn’t be able to address the crowd as he did at last year’s event because his Nittany Lions will be on the road in Ann Arbor, Mich.
Throughout the year, THON attempts to raise funds and awareness for the fight against pediatric cancer. The organization has raised more than $89 million since it began in 1977 in support of the Four Diamonds Fund at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital. Last year, $10.6 million was raised.
As part of the “No hair, don’t care campaign” with proceeds that benefit THON, Patrick Chambers, Kevin Montminy and Patrick Ackerman shaved their heads.
The enthusiasm that student support could engender inside the Bryce Jordan Center could give the Lions the emotional boost they need to earn their first conference win, but they’ll need to overcome nagging issues on the court first.
Penn State (8-15, 0-11 Big Ten) continued its woeful shooting with a 14-of-48 performance (29 percent) in the 67-53 loss at Nebraska last week.
An offensive bright spot in the game was the 32 free throw attempts the Nittany Lions earned, however that amount was still dwarfed by the 41 attempts they gave up.
Another good sign for the team was the surprising play of Alan Wisniewski who became the fourth current or former walk-on to play first half minutes this season (Nick Colella, Kevin Montminy and Kevin Onyeaka were the others).
Wisniewski finished the game with six points and eight rebounds in just 17 minutes.
“I’m just trying to find production,” Chambers said. “Whoever earns it in practice is going to play … I gave Alan Wisniewski a chance. Kid made me look like a genius.”
However, Penn State is still looking for a third scorer to help D.J. Newbill and Jermaine Marshall carry the load.
The missing link will be even more important against the Hawkeyes because Marshall’s recent struggles.
Marshall, the team’s second leading scorer, didn’t start against the Huskers for the first time in 25 games. It was a peculiar occurrence for a team that struggles to score.
But Chambers said Marshall didn’t do anything wrong and that the redshirt junior had just been struggling recently with an injury.
“His knee is bothering him so … I wanted to reduce his minutes,” Chambers said. “That’s why I didn’t start him against Nebraska.”
Chambers wouldn’t divulge Marshall’s potential status against the Hawkeyes.
Iowa (15-9, 4-7 Big Ten) doesn’t need any advantages.
The Hawkeyes are led by 6-foot-8 sophomore Aaron White’s 13.5 points per game. White gouged Penn State for 27 points en route to his team’s 76-67 victory in January.
But when White has an off night, 6-foot-6-junior guard Roy Devyn Marble is capable of stepping up.
Marble dropped a cool 21 points on 8-of-13 shooting in a 71-57 win over Northwestern on Saturday. White had just seven points.
The Hawkeyes are also stout down low. Melsahn Basabe, a 6-foot-7-junior forward, dominated Penn State’s big men with 10 points and 10 rebounds in the first meeting.
Iowa also held a 36-27 rebounding edge in the game.
Penn State will need an inspired team effort to pull off its first conference victory. Looking ahead, it won’t get any easier as four of the team’s last six games will come on the road.
Chambers has talked about using team yoga sessions to quiet the minds of his players. They had another session on Tuesday. He hopes his guys can block out distractions and clear their minds.
“You’re just trying to get them in a good place mentally to restore some confidence to restore some calm,” Chambers said. “And just stay focused on getting better … stay the course and just be the best team we can be at the end of the year.”