Coming off its first win over Michigan State since 2011, the Penn State men’s basketball team didn’t show any signs of complacency when the Nittany Lions returned to the court Tuesday.
They weren’t content with their big victory, and after two days off, they practiced like they played against the Spartans.
It was “so competitive and so heated” that Penn State coach Patrick Chambers ended it about 10-15 minutes early.
“I don’t remember the last time I saw that,” Chambers said Wednesday at the team’s media availability. “And the fact that they’re that feisty, that they want to continue to get better showed me something — that they expected to win on Saturday and if we have that mentality, we’re going to find success.”
Penn State (10-7, 2-2) led for more than 38 minutes in its 72-63 win over the Spartans at the Palestra. The Nittany Lions played with more energy than Michigan State, and they’ll look to maintain that intensity when they host No. 24 Minnesota at noon Saturday.
Penn State forward Payton Banks said competition at Tuesday’s practice was “at a really high level,” but he also said the team’s workouts have consistently been competitive.
“It’s every single day, every single drill regardless of whether we’re doing shooting drills, diving on loose balls,” Banks said. “It’s every single drill and I feel like that’s attributed a lot from the freshmen and their energy.”
Chambers credited a trio of veterans for setting the tone.
It starts with sophomore guard Josh Reaves.
“He’s that guy in everyday practice that’s going to be feisty and bring the energy and bring the juice,” Chambers said.
Chambers then pointed to Banks and junior guard Shep Garner.
Despite averaging just 6.7 points in Big Ten play going into Saturday against Michigan State, Garner was locked in defensively.
“His defense on Saturday was probably the best defense I’ve seen in a long time in my 14, 15 years of Division-I basketball,” Chambers said. “I mean he was unbelievable taking away Eron Harris’ stuff on screens. He did a phenomenal job.
“He brought that same fight, that same toughness, that same edge or desire, whatever you want to call it to practice yesterday.”
Tuesday’s practice showed Chambers his team wants to get better.
And they’ve seen their improvement after the shorter workouts, using the extra time they’d normally spend on the court watching film.
“We go watch that same practice upstairs so it’s fresh in our minds and we actually know what we’re improving on,” Banks said.