After Penn State’s loss to Purdue on Saturday, men’s basketball coach Patrick Chambers was surprised to learn fans were turned away since there were plenty of empty seats in the lower level of the Bryce Jordan Center.
He then apologized to those fans and said he hoped they would come back.
On Monday, Chambers discussed dealing with that issue while his team is on a five-game losing streak to start Big Ten play.
“It’s just another added pressure,” Chambers said. “But you know what? It’s more about my team and what we’re doing and how we’re playing and what I can do to coach them up and bring the best out of them. Honestly, I’m focused on my team.”
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Penn State offered an apology to fans who were turned away from Saturday’s game against Purdue.
The athletic department made a decision before the season to not open the curtains on the upper level at the Bryce Jordan Center for games as it tried to “provide as much (of) a home court advantage as possible.”
“Capacity in the lower bowl was reached after gates opened on Saturday, which led to approximately 30 fans being turned away at the box office,” Penn State Athletics said in a statement Sunday.
The Nittany Lions drew a season-high crowd of 8,949 to see their matchup with the Boilermakers on Team Ream Day. The Team Ream Foundation, a not-for-profit organization created in memory of Brandon Ream, aims to help financially disadvantaged individuals in the State College area who have been affected by serious medical conditions.
Penn State is offering two complimentary tickets to any regular-season home game, based on availability, to any fan that was turned away Saturday. Fans can also get a $5 parking refund. The deadline to make ticket and parking refund requests is 5 p.m. Feb. 2.
The athletic department said it will monitor ticket sales leading up to the remaining men’s and women’s basketball games.
“We maintain that the best atmosphere in the Bryce Jordan Center is achieved by first filling the lower bowl before seating fans in the upper level,” the statement said. “As was our intention, we will monitor ticket distribution and, based on historical data and anticipated walk-up, make a decision at least one day in advance as to whether the curtain in the upper bowl will be raised. Once ticket sales reach capacity in the lower bowl, then tickets will be sold for the upper seating areas.”
Chambers, meanwhile, is focused on the Nittany Lions (12-6, 0-5 Big Ten) coming off the 84-77 overtime loss to the Boilermakers.
Penn State takes on Michigan State (12-6, 3-2) in East Lansing, Mich., at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
“I’m preparing for Michigan State,” Chambers said. “I’m sure the issue’s resolved. I’m sure. I got bigger things to worry about right now.”
PSU struggles from deep
Penn State ranks last in the Big Ten in 3-point shooting at 28.7 percent for conference games, but Chambers is encouraging his players to continue shooting from long range.
If they think it’s a good shot, the coach said, take it.
“I’m not pulling the license off anybody that’s shooting threes right now,” Chambers said. “I’m not doing it because that will really mess up their confidence.”
The Nittany Lions turned in their most efficient performance from beyond the arc against Purdue, going 8 for 18 (44.4 percent). Penn State had gone 4 for 24 against Indiana and 5 for 27 against Rutgers.
Brandon Taylor finished 3 for 3 from 3-point range Saturday after going 3 for 21 in Penn State’s first four conference games.
Taylor said Chambers gives every player the green light to shoot.
“I think it gives everybody confidence knowing that coach has the confidence in you and he knows that you’re capable of making those shots,” Taylor said. “I think it helps everybody know, it gives them confidence knowing that your coach is going to live and die with you.”
Penn State has also struggled defending on the perimeter.
The Nittany Lions rank last in the conference in 3-point field goal percentage defense in Big Ten play, allowing their opponents to go 37 for 87 (42.5 percent). Illinois ranks second-to-last at 39.1 percent.
Big Ten powers down
Since Chambers arrived at Penn State, the same programs have been at the top of the league.
But this year, a handful of the conference’s perennial powers — Michigan State, Michigan and Ohio State — aren’t among the nation’s elite.
“I feel like we’re on the playing field, I do. I do,” Chambers said. “The other teams in the league, everybody’s going to go through these rough patches. The Big Ten is a gauntlet. It challenges you mentally and physically on a nightly basis.”
The Spartans, Wolverines and Buckeyes are not ranked in the AP Top 25 Poll. No. 6 Wisconsin is the lone conference team ranked in the top 10. The Badgers are joined in the rankings by Big Ten newcomer No. 13 Maryland, No. 23 Indiana and No. 25 Iowa.
In the last three years, Michigan State has won two conference tournament titles, a share of the conference regular-season title and won at least 27 games. The Spartans fell in the Elite Eight to eventual national champion Connecticut last season. MSU has lost to Maryland twice and also lost to Texas Southern this year.
Michigan won a share of the conference regular-season championship in 2012 and took the 2014 regular-season title outright. The Wolverines also made a run to the national championship game in 2013, losing to Louisville. Michigan currently sits at 11-7 overall and 4-2 in the conference, with double-digit setbacks to Purdue and Ohio State.
The Buckeyes won a share of the Big Ten in 2012, won the conference tournament in 2013 and finished with at least 25 wins the last three years. They went to the Final Four in 2012 and the Elite Eight in 2013. This season, OSU is 3-3 in the Big Ten.
Maryland (17-2) sits atop the conference at 5-1. Wisconsin, Indiana and Iowa are each 4-1.