Penn State Basketball: Chambers Embarrassed Following 70-54 Loss to Northwestern
Penn State coach Patrick Chambers walked into the media room following the Nittany Lions' 70-54 loss to Northwestern. The usually upbeat head coach was visibly upset, anxious to finish a press conference that had yet to begin. Chambers began with an opening statement, something that he usually avoids.
"I thought Northwestern played a great basketball game," Chambers said, grimacing. "I have to do a better job. I have to do a much better job preparing my team and getting them ready to play. This one is on me. They were not ready to play. They did not play with any energy or enthusiasm. It's disappointing and sometimes in this lifetime you need to look at yourself in the mirror, 'Did I do everything that I could to get this team prepared?' And I didn't.
"It is obvious because that was embarrassing. That is the first time I have said it in the year and a half I have been here. I didn't like the way we played. I didn't like the way we competed. That has a lot to do with Northwestern. I do not want to discount them at all. Bill Carmody is one of the best coaches in the country and he deserves wins, the NCAA tournament and all of that stuff. But, we were not ready to play and it is disappointing and that is on me. I take full responsibility."
For Penn State, the Nittany Lions opened the game 4-for-9 from the field to take an early 10-6 lead with 12:23 to go in the first half. The game played at a pace that favored a Penn State team not known for aggressive, high-scoring offense. However, the Nittany Lions began to struggle on both ends of the floor, making only four baskets in the final 12 minutes of the half while Northwestern slowly grew its lead.
With freshman Brandon Taylor in early foul trouble again, picking up his first foul in only 14 seconds, the Nittany Lions struggled to respond to the Wildcats' 3-point threat as Northwestern hit four from beyond the arc while Penn State went 0-for-7.
Down 33-18 at the half, four of Penn State's five starters were saddled with two or more personal fouls while having shot only three attempts from the foul line as a team in the opening 20 minutes. Coming back out to start the second half, injured senior guard Tim Frazier stood on the court yelling to his teammates, trying to rally the troops.
The Nittany Lions fought to bring the game close, but a 16-point second half by DJ Newbill and a 13-point half by Jermaine Marshall weren't enough as the two guards combined for 29 of Penn State's 36 second-half points.
"We didn't share the ball," Chambers said. "We have two guys who think they can do it all. They can't. They need help, we all need help. We are a feel-good team. My job is to tell them we play hard and that is the way it has to be this year."
Northwestern added five more 3-pointers to its total, shot 43 percent from the field and were led by Dave Sobolewski's 18 points along with three other Wildcats who scored in double figures. As Marshall and Newbill would slowly will the game within reach, Northwestern would respond with a basket or a run of its own, negating any positive momentum.
"I was happy with what we were able to do," Northwestern coach Bill Carmody said. "I was happy to see Kale Abrahamson hit three 3-pointers. And Dave Sobolewski got a few more shots tonight. He hasn't been taking too many shots and he was driving in hard tonight, which was great to see. (Jared) Swopshire and (Reggie) Hearn I just thought were very good all around, with rebounding, guarding and getting extra shots for us. Any coach wants a team that the scoring is balanced throughout the team."
Penn State was able to cut the lead to 46-33 with 11:39 remaining, but Northwestern responded with a 10-0 run over the next four minutes to bring the lead to 56-33 with 7:47 to play. From there the Wildcats controlled the game and Penn State was unable to bring the deficit any lower than 16 for the rest of the game.
"I need to get them ready mentally," Chambers said. "If they have other things in their head, then I'm not doing my job. They should just be thinking about Penn State basketball - play hard, play together, play smart, play with pride - that's it. We have to take care of our attitude club and take care of game goals. When we do, you win games. When you don't, you lose. You know, Wisconsin is a good team. Indiana is top-5. This is a good team even though they lost Drew Crawford."
Moving forward, Penn State will play Purdue on Sunday in West Lafayette. The Nittany Lions will then return home to face top-25 opponent Michigan State and Nebraska. While Chambers took the brunt of the blame for Thursday's loss, players outside of Marshall and Newbill will need to step up their game if the Nittany Lions are to turn their slowly crumbling season around.
While Penn State may not be playing for a conference title this year, momentum built over the next dozen or so games could continue into a 2013-14 season that will see the return of Frazier, Newbill and Marshall, along with the addition of four of Chambers' recruits and Pittsburgh transfer guard John Johnson.