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Penn State Basketball: Message Clear As Nittany Lions Head Into Final Weeks Of Regular Season

on February 10, 2020 3:20 PM

"Don't stop." that's all the text message said, a reminder from senior Lamar Stevens to all of his teammates an hour before Monday's AP Poll was released.

Don't stop.

"We don't have time to stop." big man John Harrar said on Monday, echoing Stevens. "Practice is going to be just as hard as it has been, if we were 0-and-6. So, once again, it goes back to that mindset of just don't stop. Keep playing. Things changing the Big 10 as you know, just like that."

For Penn State basketball it was a surreal morning. The Nittany Lions have won six-straight, a program record in Big Ten play and find themselves a game out of first place in perhaps the nation's most competitive conference. When that AP Poll was updated, there was Penn State, ranked No. 13 in the nation, one spot behind Kentucky, a few ahead of Villanova.

It was hard not to refresh the page to make sure you hadn't loaded in a misprinted ranking.

"I think we're doing a really good job and I continue to talk about putting your walls up and and making sure you're staying off social media and don't fall in love with the headlines or the press clippings or the tweets," Coach Pat Chamber said on Monday. "...just keep moving forward, keep showing up, keep getting better. You know the formula, you see what works now."

That is perhaps the biggest thing of all with this particular Penn State basketball team. It has won on the road, it has won at home. it has battled through tough games and has found a way to win without its best. The equation has always been the same, and now they're seeing it work. Defense, rebound and make your shots. It's a simple concept, but it's easier to buy into when you're winning. Suddenly hours and hours of film, weeks and weeks of being told something will work isn't simply a hypothetical. Now it's real, and you can feel it, you can make it happen.

Belief is so often one of the greatest drivers of success in sports.

Of course Penn State is not the only team reaping the benefits of belief. The Nittany Lions head to Purdue for a Tuesday evening showdown against a Boilermaker program on a three-game winning streak and white-hot shooting at home. After a bumpy start to the year, Matt Painter and his team are finding a rhythm, and nobody wants to play in front of a Mackey Arena crowd with a team that is starting to believe.

"Northwestern was up eight with two minutes and 30 seconds to go," Chambers said. "And [Purdue] wins the game. A shot like that can turn your season, and it has. That's why they're on the three game winning streak, they're at home, they're making nine and a half threes a game, and their defense is their defense. They always play great defense, they always make it very difficult. They pick you up full court, they try to disrupt your offense and your flow. They're one of the hardest teams to guard. They do a lot of fluff action to get to different screening action and different dribble handoffs, and then they go rebound the ball."

"So, you know, you've got to do a really good job in communication. Your principles here are going to be critical for us."

Conventional wisdom would suggest that Penn State is going to lose on Tuesday against a confident team in front of a energized crowd. The Nittany Lions have spent years aiming for targets and now have one on their back. It's new, it's different and it's unfamiliar.

But this is the same team that has spent all season bucking conventional wisdom. What you think this team might do is rarely what it does. And maybe that's a sign to stop assuming and let the product speak for itself.

And if Stevens has his way, a loss isn't going to stop him. Let alone slow him down.

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Penn State Basketball: Nittany Lions Land at No. 13 in Latest AP Poll
February 10, 2020 12:16 PM
Penn State Basketball: Nittany Lions Land at No. 13 in Latest AP Poll
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