Ross Travis didn’t stop hustling as Penn State stumbled to a 21-point loss to Northwestern.
The senior forward chased after loose balls and pulled down six rebounds in the setback, playing the way he always has throughout his career. Perhaps, coach Patrick Chambers said, Travis was playing even harder during the Nittany Lions’ previous two games, both losses to the Wildcats and Wisconsin.
Chambers has seen Travis continue to take the same approach with his career winding down.
“He’s hitting his midrange jumper, which is great,” Chambers said Monday. “He hit a floater, a baseline floater, he second cut for an and-1. Those are the little things we need from him. And his effort getting up and down the floor, I mean the guy is gassed in timeouts. Like can’t breathe, hyperventilating and when we say play to exhaustion, when we say leave it all out there, he’s doing that. And I appreciate that because that’s what you want. We’re 3-13. You could easily mail it in, pack it in and make reservations for spring break. I don’t see one guy doing that.”
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The Nittany Lions dropped to 3-14 in the Big Ten with their loss to No. 23 Ohio State — the team’s sixth straight setback and eighth in nine games. They close out the regular season Sunday against Minnesota (17-13, 6-11) at 1 p.m.
Travis, a Chaska, Minn., native, has started 92 games during his career and ranks third in program history with 791 rebounds. He is averaging 5.0 points and 6.3 rebounds this season.
Travis has recorded back-to-back double-digit scoring efforts, including matching his season-high with 14 points Wednesday against Ohio State. He’s grabbed nine and eight rebounds, respectively, in the last two games.
Heading into the final week of the regular season, Travis said he’ll miss the bond he formed with his teammates the most.
“It’s hard enough to think about even leaving that behind,” Travis said. “I’m going to go back home, I’m going to be at the gym, it’s going to be different not being able to come back to the locker room and chat it up with these guys.”
The relationships developed at practices and in the locker room, where conversation ranged from personal topics to a recent game.
Travis said those moments stand out more than all the games.
But he also made his mark on the court, particularly on the boards. He grabbed 229 rebounds in 31 games as a freshman and secured 239 more in 34 games as a junior.
And he needs 12 more to reach the 200-rebound mark this season.
Chambers called Travis’ place as the program’s third all-time rebounder an incredible accomplishment.
“He’s battled through a lot individually over the last four years,” Chambers said. “And he’s stayed the course and he’s doing a great job with guys like Julian Moore and Payton Banks and helping them along the way.”
Travis said he learned how to become a leader at Penn State.
But he also said there’s room for growth in the future.
“I don’t think I’ve tapped my full leadership potential at all yet,” Travis said. “I think I can lead a lot better. I just don’t think I’ve tapped my full leadership potential yet, but I’ll definitely have my opportunities and chances in the future to do that as well.”
Right now, Travis is playing with confidence after seeing his scoring average drop from 8.4 points last season.
“Ross is playing great basketball down the stretch here the last couple weeks,” Chambers said. “He has been dialed in, doing everything he can for us. It’s great to see and I hope he does it again in Minnesota.”
Travis said he’s come a long way since arriving at Penn State.
“I’ve learned a lot for these four years,” Travis said. “The playing time I’ve got, the people I’ve met and just everything combined has helped me become a better player and a man.”
Notes: Penn State beat Minnesota 63-58 on Jan. 28. The Golden Gophers have gone 4-4 since that game. Minnesota is coming off a 76-63 loss to Wisconsin ... The Big Ten tournament starts Wednesday in Chicago. Penn State will be the No. 13 seed in the tournament.