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March 14, 2013Thursday marks the start of a new season for the Penn State men's basketball team.
The No. 12-seed Nittany Lions have traveled to Chicago for the first round of the Big Ten Tournament, where they'll take on No. 5-seed, Associated Press No. 6-ranked Michigan at the United Center.
Coming off a 2-2 finish to the Big Ten schedule, including Sunday's 63-60 buzzer-beating loss to No. 22-ranked Wisconsin at the Bryce Jordan Center, head coach Patrick Chambers said his team is squarely focused on improvement and taking advantage of the clean slate that the conference tournament provides.
"You know what I'm a big believer of? Staying in the moment and focusing on today and not worrying about yesterday, because it's gone. Focusing on good habits today and getting our mindset prepared and ready to play a very, very good Michigan team on Thursday," Chambers said earlier this week. "So, today, do your job and live in the moment, forget the schedule, forget the record, forget all that. It's gone. Forget that you beat them. It's over."
As Chambers acknowledged, part of the clean slate involves forgetting about not only their 14-game, 61-day losing streak to open the Big Ten portion of the 2012-13 schedule, but also their thrilling 84-78 win against then No. 4-ranked Michigan on Feb. 27 at the BJC.
Though that win prompted both a sense of relief at earning their first Big Ten win of the season and the confidence that has carried them through the final three games of the year, Chambers has insisted that his Nittany Lions approach today's game with the same mentality they have through every other game this past season.
"It's the next game on the schedule," he said. "It happens to be Michigan. This is a new season. We're playing with house money. Just go out there and have some fun and play as hard as we can and compete."
If the Nittany Lions hope to earn another win against the Wolverines Thursday afternoon, they'll need to limit a Naismith Award favorite, guard Trey Burke.
In the last game between the two teams, Burke was held to just 18 points, which, though still impressive, is less than his 19.2 points per game average and the lowest of his past five games in which he has averaged 23.3 points per game.
Having established a familiarity with each other, the two teems meeting for the third time in under a month, Chambers said he's fully expecting Michigan head coach John Beilein to be prepared for anything the Nittany Lions throw at the star point guard.
"He's a great coach, so they'll do some different things to counter what we did that tried to negate Trey Burke, which is very hard to do as you saw from Indiana and Purdue the last couple of games," Chambers said. "I mean, you can try to slow him down, we just really have to play good, solid defense. We've gotta take care of the basketball and play hard without fouling, especially him. You can't just let him get to the foul line and beat us that way. We've gotta make every shot difficult."
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