Penn State Basketball: Nittany Lions Prepare for Puerto Rico Tip-Off Challenge
With a 65-58 victory over Saint Francis in the books, the Penn State men’s basketball team is preparing for a six-day trip to the island of Puerto Rico for a three-game tournament, starting with No. 6 N.C. State at 5 p.m. Thursday on ESPN2.
Head coach Pat Chambers has visited the island before with Boston University, posting a 1-2 record at the 2009 Puerto Rico Tip-Off Challenge. The Terriers' only victory came against Indiana, an upset win for the program.
Similarly, Penn State will try and pull off an early season upset, facing a top five team for the second year in a row having faced No. 2 Kentucky last year. The Nittany Lions lost to the eventual national champions, 85-47.
“It’s great to play a high major team like NC State,” Chambers said. “I don’t know if it’s a barometer for us, this game isn’t going to be so much about NC State as much as Penn State, and how far we’ve come in a year. To see if we can handle playing on that stage, last year I didn’t think we handled it as well. We need to play team basketball; if we can do all of that, we’ll see what the outcome is.”
The Nittany Lions will leave State College on Tuesday morning, busing to Philadelphia before taking the three-and-a-half hour flight to Puerto Rico. The team will be together for six days, much like a preseason trip to Canada prior to the 2009 season, which produced an NIT championship.
While Penn State’s focus will be on three games in four days, Chambers knows that there are benefits of being together for almost a week.
"I always like doing trips like this," Chambers said. "It brings you together, you get to spend more time together. It's not all basketball. I want them to have fun and enjoy this trip, we're trying to create a culture of a winning mentality but we also have fun doing it.
"What I'm going to tell them is that this is a business trip. We're going down there to compete and play hard for 40 minutes and that's what they should expect and demand from each other."
The Nittany Lions second opponent will be determined following all first round games. Penn State is guaranteed to play either Providence or the University of Massachusetts in its second game.