Penn State Basketball: Nittany Lions Gearing Up for Big Ten Play
When All-Big Ten guard Tim Frazier went down with a season-ending Achilles injury earlier this season, many fans of the program began to wonder what sort of season they were in for.
But despite the loss, and a certain air of skepticism in a Frazier-less team being able to succeed, the Nittany Lions have found themselves averaging 79 points over a four-game winning streak and going 6-2 since losing Frazier heading into the Big Ten opener at Wisconsin on Thursday night.
"I hope it's a mentality," coach Patrick Chambers said Wednesday by phone during his weekly teleconference. "We've had a little bit of success over the past four games, which has been great. But this is different, we're on the road for the first time in a while. We've got to play with confidence and understand the game plan and try and execute it."
For Penn State, the Nittany Lions are looking to improve on a 4-14 conference record in Chambers' first year. Having lost four games by six or fewer points, and losing all games by an average margin of 13 points, even a small amount of improvement could yield positive results.
"The league is great. I love playing in this league," Chambers said. "But again, we have the mentality that if we go out and compete and play hard that we have a chance to beat anybody. I even felt that way last year. This isn't the same old Penn State. This is a group that is playing with confidence. This is a group that doesn't fear failure."
Penn State has won four of its last six conference openers and is scheduled to play four of the next six games at the Bryce Jordan Center. The Nittany Lions will get a chance to start strong at a place that historically spelled failure for Penn State, taking on Wisconsin at 8:30 p.m. at the Kohl Center. The Lions are 2-16 in Madison, have never won in the Kohl Center and have not won in Madison since 1995, a string of 14-straight games.
"I'm not real excited about opening at Wisconsin," Chambers said. "But we get a chance to learn about our team early in conference play."
Much like Penn State, the Badgers have dealt with injuries of their own, as standout guard Josh Gasser tore his ACL earlier this year.
"They're dealing with injuries, and Bo (Ryan) is playing younger guys than he likes, too," Chambers said. "But they're Wisconsin, and you know what you're going to get."