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January 8, 2014

Analysis: Getting on the board a must for 0-2 Nits

If Patrick Chambers is panicking, he's not showing it.

His Penn State men's basketball team, 0-2 in the Big Ten following a 75-55 letdown at Illinois over the weekend, gets its third opportunity at a conference win this season when it tips against Minnesota Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Bryce Jordan Center.

Opening the year with a 6-1 non-conference mark before dropping back-to-back road games against Ole Miss and at Pittsburgh, followed by a devastating 81-79 overtime loss to Princeton at Rec Hall in December, the Nittany Lions now sit at 9-6 on the season and appear to have reached another type of crossroads, even for early-January.

Managing to produce just 42 combined points between the second half against Michigan State and the first half against the Illini, the NIttany Lions seem to have lost some of the explosive offensive output that had defined the non-conference portion of their schedule.

"I think maybe our top four guys are squeezing the air out of the ball a little bit," Chambers said. "We just gotta relax. Play the game. Win the game."

"Is it the expectations?" a reporter followed.

"There's no expectations! They picked us twelfth!" Chambers said with a laugh. "What expectations are there?"

Certainly, coming off a miserable 2012-13 season in which team heartbeat Tim Frazier was lost for the season with a ruptured Achilles tendon just four games in, any and all improvements are welcomed inside the program.

Yet, aiming to produce more than just an improvement on the past two seasons, Wednesday night's showdown is a nearly-critical place to start.

Notes:

- Though Penn State trailed by nine points in the second half when the team's leading scorer - D.J. Newbill - was ejected from the game for throwing an open-handed shove, Chambers diplomatically noted just how important the call was to the outcome of the game.

"Illinois played great. They did every little thing. It definitely affected the game though," Chambers said. "I mean, that's our first or second leading scorer, depending on what week it is, and you're taking him out of the game. So it's a tough call. They were very good. Mike Kitts is one of the best refs out there, if not the best, in managing a game and trying to keep it fair.

"I think they had a poor angle. I think they had a poor angle and whatever they saw on film, they had a poor angle. I don't think they saw 25 hit him first, whereas when I'm watching film, I see everything. We have a different camera angle, and it was very obvious it should have been a double technical, but that's not the case, and you can't worry about it now, you've gotta move on. The good news is, D.J. is playing Wednesday."

- Asked for a scouting report of the 12-3 Golden Gophers (1-1 Big Ten), Chambers said all his focus was on the Nittany Lions as of Monday afternoon.

"I gotta get us right. We gotta get a little more chemistry going, a little bit more cohesion," he said. "I just feel like because of adding two players, it has kind of put us off kilter a little bit. We all gotta get on the same page. We had a great first step today. Great first step, good practice, incredible film session last night. Guys are really receptive, open minded to - it's on us now."





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