Coach Patrick Chambers said some of his players were brought to tears following Penn State’s gut-wrenching 60-51 loss to Wisconsin on Thursday.
But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
“There were guys crying and, to me, that’s confidence,” Chambers said. “That’s how much guys care now, which is great. But, I think we let one get away.”
Things won’t be getting much easier for the Nittany Lions (8-5, 0-1), now at the start of a brutal conference schedule, as they will look to rebound at 7 p.m. tonight against No. 5 Indiana (13-1, 1-0) in the Bryce Jordan Center.Chambers acknowledged the Hoosiers’ many strengths — citing their depth as one of their best — but made sure to note he thinks his team is up for the challenge.
The second-year coach said a win against the highly-ranked Hoosiers would allow his team to regain confidence, but not because of Indiana’s impressive résumé.
“It’s a great opportunity because Indiana is the next game on the schedule, not because they’re No. 5,” Chambers said. “I make sure we try not to fall prey to human nature with the rankings and the media and the social media.”
The Hoosiers present perhaps the most challenging defensive matchup for the Lions so far this year, as they lead the Big Ten in scoring, averaging 87.9 points per game.
The Lions’ defensive scheme will likely focus first and foremost on sophomore Cody Zeller, who is coming off a 19-point, 10-rebound outing in the Hoosiers’ recent defeat of Iowa. Zeller is fourth in the Big Ten in scoring, averaging 16.6 points per game, and first in rebounding with 8.1 per game.
Chambers said he admires the opposing center’s work ethic, as the sophomore has managed to make the most of his seven-foot frame.
“He’s got good feet,” Chambers said. “He’s shot the ball a lot more from the perimeter and he’s done a lot of good things. And the fact that he plays so hard…he’s a special talent.”
However, the head coach said it’s the Hoosiers’ depth that makes them so dangerous. Indiana has five players averaging double-figure point production, including junior Victor Oladipo, who Chambers cited as one of the best guards in the country. Oladipo is shooting an incredible 67.3 percent from the field and averaging 13.3 points per game.
For Penn State to defeat its talented foe, Chambers said the Lions will likely need to improve upon their foul trouble and get to the free-throw line themselves. Chambers’ squad saw two of its starters foul out of the Wisconsin game — leading to 26 free throw opportunities for the Badgers — while the Lions got to the free throw line exactly one time themselves.
But Chambers said he is comfortable with the overall direction his team is heading and looks forward to seeing how his team matches up with the top-notch competition the Big Ten has to offer.
“Sometimes it doesn’t happen overnight,” Chambers said. “This is a marathon. This isn’t the end-all and be-all. We have three games this week and we’re trying to continue to get better to be the best team that we can by the end of the year.”