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Penn State Basketball: Nittany Lions Look To End Slump Wednesday Night

by on January 08, 2014 6:00 AM

In Penn State basketball's defense, playing a Top 10 team like Michigan State to open conference play is no easy task. Then to travel on the road to face a talented Illinois team, one of the hottest in the nation, isn't any easier.

But head coach Patrick Chambers isn't interested in excuses.

So when Minnesota rolls into town on Wednesday night it'll be a pivotal showdown for both programs. The Gophers are 1-1 in conference play and 12-3 on the season under new head coach Richard Pitino. All three losses came against good teams, but the Gophers have yet to put a statement victory on their resume.

Winners in seven of their last eight games, Minnesota is producing 76.5 points per game with an average of 18 coming from the free-throw line in each contest. The Gophers are the only team in the Big Ten more accurate from the charity stripe than Penn State, hitting 76.3 percent of shots compared to 74.7.

The Nittany Lions are still struggling to find themselves after a solid out of conference schedule. Penn State scored 47 points in the first half against Michigan State, but otherwise, the team has struggled to find its style of play.

If Penn State plans on making a run in the Big Ten, Wednesday night is a critical juncture. Winning on the road is never going to be easy in the Big Ten, so inversely winning at home becomes even more important. The Nittany Lions play their next two games inside the confines of the Bryce Jordan Center against two beatable teams, Minnesota and Indiana. Win those games and all is forgiven.

For the Nittany Lions to pull off the victory, they'll need guard Tim Frazier to find his game and his swagger after struggling against Illinois. Penn State will also have to rely on bench production that has been an unusual asset during the Chambers' era.

Simply put, if Penn State basketball can get back to playing Penn State basketball, the Nittany Lions' season hasn't been a waste. It might be early in conference play, but Wednesday night is as close to a must-win as you can get.

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Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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