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Penn State Basketball: No Letup For Team Following Historic Victory

by on January 12, 2017 1:25 PM

It is, at least in theory, easy to lose a young team's focus and commitment to the little things. In particular a young team comprised of players who have spent the vast majority of their high school careers winning rather most of the time.

College basketball is for every single team, a marathon where losing has always been and will continue to be a part of that long journey.

Equally true is the value and perhaps the traps of victory. Penn State's win over Michigan State was historic and meaningful, but it was just the fourth game on a long and difficult slate of Big Ten games. For the Nittany Lions and Pat Chambers' exceptionally young roster, that victory was not only validation of hard work paying off, but the opening for an excuse to take the foot off the gas.

According to Chambers that hasn't happened. In the days following the landmark victory players have been in the gym early, practice even getting called off early because the intensity was so high. If this young team is telling itself it has arrived, you wouldn't know it by seeing them work when nobody is looking.

“What I see, yesterday in practice, is a team that’s not relaxed,” Chambers said. “A team that’s not content or complacent, thinking, ‘Oh, we won a big game, we have finally arrived, and we’ve figured it out.’”

And that will be key to what amounts to a two-year building process with a team without a single senior on its roster. Penn State is already --as forward Payton Banks said on Wednesday-- "night and day" from where it was at the start of the season and the confidence is clearly growing. In reality the Nittany Lions are 2-2 in conference play, but a should-have-been-win turned road defeat to Michigan has Penn State playing with the confidence of a team that is 3-1.

“We have been having a lot of really short and hard practices,” Banks. “I think the biggest thing in the difference between past teams is the consistency of the competitiveness. Its every single day.”

In Banks' eyes the key so far has been the team's willingness to do the hard work rather than just assume good things will happen because they always have.

"It's just the constant intensity," Banks added, looking back on his own transition to college basketball years ago. "I would have it one day and not have it the next two, three days. And that wasn't attributed to be not being able to it was just me being young and not wanting to, and I feel like there is a big difference between what these guys are showing and what I did my freshman year so I commend them a lot."

Coming from a team captain and a well respected teammate that's high praise from the California native.

How much progress this team has made will be put to the test this weekend as the Nittany Lions face Big Ten leading Minnesota at the Bryce Jordan Center.

But if nothing else, Penn State seems to be prepared for the ups and down, taking both in stride.

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