Shep Garner addressed his teammates ahead of the Big Ten tournament, reminding them not to look ahead of Day 1 in a five-day event.
The Nittany Lions can’t think past their first-round matchup against Nebraska. And they can’t think about the past, either.
“I think one day at a time is basically the best way to describe it,” Garner said.
No. 13 seed Penn State (14-17, 6-12 Big Ten) will open Big Ten tournament play at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday against the No. 12 seed Cornhuskers (12-18, 6-12) in Washington, D.C.
The Nittany Lions head into the conference tournament on a five-game losing streak and frustrated by the close losses throughout Big Ten play. But they’ve stayed positive during practice throughout the late-season slide and looked at film to see where they went wrong in certain situations like allowing an opponent to grab an offensive rebound.
Now, they’ll try to learn from those experiences going into their rematch with the Huskers, who beat Penn State 82-66 on Feb. 14.
Four more losses followed to finish the regular season, including an overtime setback against Purdue and a 71-70 loss to Ohio State.
“We lost five in a row and nobody’s happy with that, especially with a couple of those we had it in our grasp so it was ours to take,” Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said. “We really want to get these younger guys better, really want to continue to work on the culture, really want to continue to develop the right habits so we can win these close games on Wednesday.”
Penn State freshman guard Tony Carr said dealing with the adversity of losing made him a better player this season. Chambers looked to Carr to become a leader late in the season, and the point guard put together a strong finish, scoring in double figures in 10 of the last 11 games.
It’s been a new experience for Carr after playing on dominant teams at Roman Catholic, where leadership took care of itself.
“It definitely gives me a different perspective of how to lead on a team like this where we’re not winning as many games as I’m used to,” Carr said. “But just having Shep here has just helped me through this whole situation because he’s kind of been here and knows how to react to certain things and how to talk to certain guys.”
Carr echoed Garner’s message about taking this week one day at a time.
He looks at the Big Ten tournament as a fresh start and feels confident heading into Wednesday.
“At times like this when you’re going into a one-and-done tournament, the big players step up to make the big plays,” Carr said. “And I think we have big playmakers on this team so hopefully we can put our best foot forward and step up.”
They’re focused on getting better and preparing for Nebraska.
“We’re not ready to start thinking about ’17-18,” Chambers said. “They want to keep this going.”
Notes: The winner of the Penn State-Nebraska matchup will take on No. 5 seed Michigan State in the second round Thursday. No. 4 Minnesota will then face the winner of that matchup. ... Nebraska finished the regular season on a four-game losing streak. The Huskers lost all four games by at least 15 points, including a 93-57 loss to Michigan in the regular season finale. ... Nebraska’s Tai Webster finished tied for third in the Big Ten in scoring with 17.2 points per game.
Penn State vs. Nebraska
When: 4:30 p.m. Wednesday
Where: Verizon Center, Washington D.C.
Radio: WQWK 1450
Glynn Watson Jr.