Big Ten play doesn’t offer many easy matchups or recovery days between games.
But, as coach Patrick Chambers pointed out shortly after Penn State’s deflating 74-51 loss to Indiana Monday, it does offer frequent opportunities to bounce back if a team can channel a short memory.
“This is the beauty of the Big Ten,” Chambers said. “No time to feel sorry for yourself. You’re right back to work tomorrow.”
The second-year coach said he hopes his team can build off the momentum of a stronger second half showing against the Hoosiers in the Nittany Lions’ third conference matchup against Northwestern at 8 tonight at the Bryce Jordan Center. The Wildcats run the “Princeton offense” and a 1-3-1 zone defensive scheme, both of which Chambers said the Lions have not seen this year.
Although redshirt sophomore D.J. Newbill said the team has been studying the Wildcats’ unique defensive strategy — which could open up an opportunity for more outside shots — the guard said the Lions don’t feel the need to completely change their offensive scheme because of it.
“We’re just working on our cuts against it,” Newbill said. “We’re not going to settle for a lot of jump shots. We’re still going to try our game, play downhill and we’re going to take what the defense gives us.”
Chambers said on Wednesday that he wished he could have given his team a day off on Tuesday to rest some of his starters — three of which logged 38 minutes or more on Monday — but the Wildcats’ unique style of play prompted him to direct a walk-through practice instead.
While 10-6 overall, the Wildcats are also seeking their first Big Ten victory and are coming off of a 69-51 loss to No. 8 Minnesota Sunday. The Wildcats’ offense is likely to feature many backdoor cuts that will force the Lions’ defenders to stay sharp, Chambers said.
In the Lions’ recent loss to the Hoosiers, they did show some promise defensively, especially in the second half — overall, they held the No. 1 scoring team in the country below its season average of 87 points.
Chambers said it is more so the offense that has the most to improve on. The Lions shot just 32 percent from the field against the Hoosiers and turned the ball over 19 times.
Northwestern will likely not provide more firepower on either end of the court than Indiana. However, Chambers was sure to note that his players don’t feel any added pressure to get their first conference victory against a team like Northwestern that was not picked to finish among the top Big Ten squads.
“Our mindset [is] Northwestern is the next game on our schedule. They beat us twice last year,” Chambers said.
“On any given night, we can beat anybody in this conference. On any given night, we can be beaten in this conference. We have to take that winner’s mentality approach that we have to play Penn State basketball for 40 minutes, and I don’t care who [the opponent] is.”