Patrick Chambers expressed his respect for Duke.
The Penn State coach wants to emulate the top men’s basketball programs in the country, pointing out the Blue Devils’ success on and off the court under coach Mike Krzyzewski. Duke has won five national titles with Krzyzewski at the helm. The Blue Devils captured their last championship in 2015, and they’re among the favorites to win it all this season.
“They’re the gold standard,” Chambers said.
But the Penn State coach and his players aren’t getting caught up in Duke’s proud history or its No. 1 ranking going into the teams’ matchup at 12:30 p.m. Saturday in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament at Mohegan Sun Arena.
After Penn State’s win over Grand Canyon on Tuesday, Shep Garner said the Duke game was simply the next one on the schedule.
“Of course we’re playing Duke,” Garner said. “But we’re going to go to practice on Thursday and do the same things we’ve been doing. It’s just another game to us.”
Chambers wants the Nittany Lions (2-1) to approach the matchup that way Saturday.
“We’re going out to win,” Chambers said.
Grayson Allen leads Duke (2-1) in scoring with 17.7 points per game. Allen, a 6-foot-5 junior guard, was named the Preseason ACC Player of the Year and received the most votes on the Preseason AP All-American team.
The Blue Devils have five players averaging double figures scoring, including 6-foot-6 sophomore Luke Kennard (17.3 points per game) and freshman guard Frank Jackson (16.7).
Chambers knows it will be a challenge for his team defensively.
“We just got to play great team defense, do our job, try to limit our mistakes and if we do make mistakes, just do it hard and together,” Chambers said.
The Blue Devils are shooting 48.6 percent from the field, getting to the free-throw line and averaging 88.3 points in their first three games.
Chambers expects his players to be ready to go Saturday.
“These guys are competitors,” Chambers said. “They just love to compete. They love to play. They want to put the jersey on. They’re taking great pride in putting that jersey on so win or lose, you go out and you play as hard as you can.”
Notes: No. 21 Rhode Island will take on No. 24 Cincinnati in the tournament’s second game at 3 p.m. Saturday. Penn State will play Rhode Island or Cincinnati on Sunday. ... Duke fell 77-75 to No. 7 Kansas on Tuesday. ... Duke freshmen Harry Giles, Jayson Tatum and Marques Bolden have yet to play this season due to injury. Giles, a 6-foot-10 forward, was the No. 1 recruit in the nation, according to ESPN. Tatum, a 6-foot-8 forward, was rated the No. 3 recruit by ESPN, and the 6-foot-11 Bolden was ranked ESPN’s No. 16 recruit.
Penn State vs. No. 1 Duke
When: 12:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Mohegan Sun Arena, Uncasville, Conn.
Radio: WQWK 1450