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March 21, 2014

Chambers, Nittany Lions look forward to Siena

Technically, the Penn State men's basketball season began on Nov. 9 at the Bryce Jordan Center, a 74-62 win against Wagner to open the year 1-0.

The actual action, however, started as a team in the BJC's South Gym during the sweltering days of early August. Preparing for a trip to Europe that saw the Nittany Lions travel to Belgium on Aug. 9, head coach Patrick Chambers saw his team compete in three games during the foreign tour that ended in London in mid-August.

Two hundred twenty-four days later, the Nittany Lions are still playing ball, gearing up for Monday's 7 p.m. tip at Siena in the second round of the College Basketball Invitational.

According to Chambers, his well-traveled, well-worked team is still in great shape as it attempts to extend its season for as many as four more games following Monday's quarterfinals trip to Albany, N.Y.

"We are in great condition. I think we've done a good job mixing some things up mentally and physically, keeping them fresh," he said Friday morning via teleconference. "Give them a day here, a day there, changing up practice plans, changing up the weight program. We're trying to get them to eat healthier, sleep more, little things like that.

"I realize we've been going since August. As long as we do the proper things to keep them energized and to keep pushing, I like where we are today and I like the direction we're headed in. As coaches, we love practice and we love to work with younger guys and try to get them better, so that's what we're doing."

After knocking off Hampton on Wednesday night at the BJC, 69-65, in the CBI opening round, the matchup with the Saints was set following their own 66-55 win against Stony Brook on Tuesday.

The Saints, owning a 16-17 overall record and 11-9 mark in the MAAC, have an RPI of 193 after finishing just 5-14 against opponents with an RPI rated 200 or higher. But, having seen the atmosphere that the Saints' home crowd brings to the Times Union Center and the talented young players on the squad, Chambers said he's expecting another challenge for his own developing team.

"It's going to be nuts, it's going to be crazy. That's what I envision," he said. "We're a Big Ten team going in there. Jimmy is going to have them ready to go. It's going to be a great challenge. If we can keep the score to where we're containing the pace, I think that's going to be better for us."

Climbing to 16-17 themselves for the season, Chambers said that he and the Nittany Lions are continuing their year-long quest to "be the best team they can be" by the end of the season by participating in the CBI this year.

Though the team's two stars, guards Tim Frazier and D.J. Newbill are fifth and fourth-year players, respectively, the Nittany Lions' only lose Frazier for the 2014-15 season. In fact, with four true freshmen, one redshirt freshman and two new transfers seeing increased playing time down the stretch, Chambers reiterated Friday just how critical this time has been for his team's continued development.

"For us to continue to develop and put ourselves in game situations with fans, and now we get a chance to play on the road with officials and things like that, it can only help us in our development. So we're excited to be a part of the CBI," he said. "I've been a part of the CBI when I was at Boston University and it really was a great springboard for us to help our team get the preparation to get to the NCAA Tournament the following year. I think if you look at past seasons, they would all agree.

"I know Siena has a young team, we have a young team, Hampton had a young team. I think that's why you want to do it to give them that practice and preparation to prepare them for a tournament run. Our guys did want to play in it, and if our guys didn't I would think maybe I didn't recruit the right guys."

Noting how quickly careers end in college basketball, Chambers continued, "When you take pride in putting that jersey on, you want to put it on as much as you can. Four years is not a long time, as Tim Frazier realizes. He can't believe it's over. He's a fifth-year senior and it's over. Ross Travis looked at me yesterday in a meeting and he's like, 'I can't believe I'm going to be a senior.' It's a blink of an eye and it's over, so let's cherish these games, let's cherish this time, let's take pride in our program, take pride in putting that uniform on one more time."





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