The first month of the season is in the books and Penn State is off to a 6-1 start after knocking off Syracuse last Friday.
Pat Chambers and combo guard Myreon Jones met with the media on Monday, ahead of Penn State’s game against Wake Forest on Wednesday in the annual Big Ten-ACC challenge.
Here are three takeaways from Monday’s press conference.
Lessons learned in Brooklyn
Penn State’s loss to Mississippi last Wednesday had a familiar feel to it.
The Nittany Lions blew a 21-point lead and looked out of sorts in the second half en route to their first loss of the season against a team they dominated for the first 20 minutes.
But for this young team, there were plenty of lessons to be learned from this defeat.
In fact, a day away from the basketball court was exactly what Penn State needed.
"We didn't sulk [after losing to Mississippi],” Chambers said. “Instead, we came back and played some of our best basketball."
As a whole, the experience in Brooklyn was a positive one.
While the Nittany Lions did squander a big lead against the Rebels, they looked like a completely different team in an 85-64 victory over Syracuse two nights later.
More importantly, Chambers believes that his team is having fun, despite being saddled with high expectations.
"There’s so much stress and pressure on [the players], but they’re going out and having fun” Chambers said. “They had fun in New York. I want this to continue to be a season where they're enjoying themselves, on and off the court."
Lundy and Jones Jr. see breakout games
Since his first press conference of the season, Chambers has been adamant that freshman Seth Lundy will be a major cog in Penn State’s offense.
Last Friday, Lundy played significant minutes for the first time this season, and made the most of his opportunity.
Lundy thrived against Syracuse’s unique 2-3 zone defense, finishing with 10 points and four rebounds in 15 minutes for his first double-digit performance of the season.
His coach wasn’t surprised with Lundy’s breakout performance.
“We know that he can score, but he’s also getting used to our schemes on the defensive end,” Chambers said. “It was great that he could come in and score some crucial points for us.”
But it wasn’t just Lundy who found his rhythm within Penn State’s offense against the Orange.
After only scoring six points and shooting 28 percent from the floor against Mississippi, Curtis Jones Jr. poured in 14 points and shot 50 percent from the floor in 26 minutes, a performance that included multiple 3-pointers off the bench.
Jones Jr. struggled with his shot in the first six games of the season, but the Oklahoma State transfer found his stroke in the Barclays center and it proved to be essential in the Nittany Lions dominant second-half effort.
“You can tell that he’s playing really well and getting comfortable,” Myreon Jones said. “He was struggling a little bit in the first few games, but he’s been really good in practice and I think you’re seeing that live.”
Big Ten play on the horizon
Following its nonconference test against Wake Forest on Wednesday, Penn State will open Big Ten play against two of the hottest teams in the nation.
The conference as a whole has outperformed expectations throughout the first month of the season, with four of the top 11 teams in the AP Poll representing the Big Ten.
In the next eight days, the Nittany Lions will face two of the best that the Big Ten has to offer, traveling to Columbus to take on No. 6 Ohio State on Dec. 7 and No. 3 Maryland on Dec. 10.
If the Nittany Lions can split these two games, their Big Ten schedule is favorable when conference play resumes in January.
But the Demon Deacons are up first.
“Obviously we have to play against Wake Forest because that team is playing really well,” Chambers said. “But when it comes to playing [Ohio State and Maryland], they have to deal with us as well. They know that we’re playing well, and I look forward to the challenge of playing two high-major teams to start the Big Ten season.”