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Penn State Basketball: Nittany Lions Prepare for Weekend Showdown with Minnesota

by on February 06, 2020 3:30 PM

It has been nearly a month since Penn State basketball has lost. A five-game winning streak turning that pesky three-game slump into a thing of the past. All of a sudden the conversation isn't about change anymore, it's about a Big Ten title and the Nittany Lions finding a way to play for a favorable seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Of course with nine regular season games to go there is still plenty of work left for the Nittany Lions to do. This thing is far from over, and on Saturday, Penn State will host Minnesota, the last team to come out on the right end against the Nittany Lions, a 75-69 victory in Minneapolis.

And don't forget that little postgame conversation between Lamar Stevens and Minnesota big man Daniel Oturu, one where Oturu gave Stevens an earful as the two teams shook hands.

But that's all in the past, right?

"I mean, you know, we're definitely tough competitors," Stevens said on Thursday. "But I'm focused on, my team is focused on, you know, getting everybody ready, getting myself ready. Sometimes within a game stuff like that happens within but I don't let it, you know, trickle down or stick with us. I just want to focus on my team, getting us better."

Very politically correct answer, no matter how true or untrue it might turn out to be.

"Right now we have stay laser focused on the task at hand," Coach Pat Chambers added. "They're playing good basketball. They just played Wisconsin amazing. So we have to be focused on us, and it's about us getting better, nothing about bulletin board material or, you know, the handshake line or whatever it was said. That's in the past, stay focus on the present and try to win this moment."

Beyond the entertaining but perhaps inconsequential drama, Saturday's meeting will put Penn State's newly found rebounding prowess against a roster that racked up 18 offensive rebounds the last time these two teams met. In turn the Gophers managed to shoot nine more free throws to the tune of a 23-for-29 clip.

So the equation is the same it has always been, this isn't complicated, of course that doesn't make it easy: play defense, rebound and make shots. Penn State has done all three very well over the past five games.

"It was 18 offensive rebounds," Chambers added. "I think if we do a better job we may have come out of there with a win. 18 offensive rebounds leads to 29 free throws. Over this four or five game stretch we've done a better job of defending, defending the three, and rebounding the ball and not putting the opponent on the free throw line where they're getting easy buckets and stopping our runs. We're doing a better job. If we can continue with this formula that we've created here over the last five. You know the score will take care of itself."

Penn State will hope that is the case, a game out of first place in the Big Ten standings has turned the season on its head from the cautious optimism surrounding a potential NCAA Tournament berth to something a whole lot more than that.

And in front of what is on its way to becoming a sold-out Bryce Jordan Center, there will been plenty of people there to root on the Nittany Lions for a sixth-straight win.

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