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January 31, 2014

Lions not living in the past

Patrick Chambers had his opportunity.

Two days after his Nittany Lions went into Columbus and knocked off No. 24-ranked Ohio State - the first win by an unranked opponent at the Buckeyes' home floor in 80 tries - Penn State's head coach held his weekly teleconference with the media.

Though Penn State's Super Bowl Sunday (morning) matchup with Purdue at the Bryce Jordan Center, Jordan Dickerson and Brandon Taylor's improved performances, and 3-point shooting were all warranted topics of discussion, Chambers' thoughts on a controversial late-game out-of-bounds call - last but not least among the questions asked - might have been the most intriguing.

The play in question, an Aaron Craft turnover out of bounds that was overturned after an official review, kept possession for the Buckeyes and led to the home team's 2-point lead with less than a minute to play. Though replays appeared to clearly show Craft last touching the ball, Penn State guard Tim Frazier was determined to have touched it last.

"Oh, I've watched it quite a few times," Chambers said with a laugh. "You know what, this is what I would tell you, and hopefully we get this whistle at home, I would tell you Tim Frazier probably fouled him. His hand was in there, he probably hit his hand.

"So, either way, at least we get a chance to setup our defense and get a stop. Probably what you guys didn't want to hear, but I'm going with it."

Of course, whether the call was correct or incorrect is, at this point, irrelevant.

The Nittany Lions, having pulled out the improbable 71-70 upset in overtime, improved to 11-10 on the season with the win and 2-6 in the Big Ten following a six-game losing streak to open the conference schedule. Even mores, amidst the struggles of the past few seasons, Penn State strung together its first back-to-back conference wins dating back to February 2012.

From a team that has faced more than its share of tough losses this season - five by three-or-fewer points - Chambers acknowledged that in-game challenges are now framed in a somewhat different light.

"Because of all the adversity and setbacks we've had in some of those games where we lost by a possession and a couple of points, I think that has helped us. Which is crazy. You always think there's a reason for this, there's a reason why we're going through this. It's only going to make you stronger. And we survived," he said. "And by the way, it's not going anywhere. Every game from here on out is going to be the same, because this league is crazy. It's nuts. Nebraska beats Indiana last night. It's just crazy.

"So we're going to be in a lot of tight games and hopefully we've learned our lesson from those close games and we can just stick together like we did in those huddles. Those huddles were amazing. Best huddles I've had in a long time. And those guys were focused and they went out and got it. I was really impressed, especially after some difficult calls going against us."

Among the more difficult-to-swallow losses of the season for Penn State, Sunday's opponent at the BJC can be counted.

A 65-64 loss to the Boilermakers in West Lafayette just two weekends ago, the Nittany Lions saw a 3-point lead with 16 seconds left to play slip away and extend the team's already gut-wrenching losing streak to six games.

Rather than dwelling on or pushing a review of what went wrong, Chambers said Friday that he's taking a different approach to framing Sunday's game.

"Next one on the schedule. We're not looking back. I put a lot of thought into that," he said. "We're moving forward. It's about us. We learned a great deal from that Purdue game and for us to come back and get Nebraska shows a lot of what's in the chest of this team.

"We just gotta continue to get better, focus on us and just leave it out there. We gotta get better today, gotta get better tomorrow, and then go compete on Sunday. That's been our way the last couple of weeks and that's the way it's gotta stay."

Penn State tips vs. Purdue at 11:30 a.m. Sunday. The game will air on BTN.




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