Penn State is winning in the Big Ten and climbing in the polls, much to the delight of its players of coaches.
Now the No. 13 Nittany Lions (18-5, 8-4 Big Ten) will take a six-game win streak into their matchup on Tuesday at Purdue.
Penn State climbed nine spots in the AP Top 25 after a week that included an upset at then-No. 16 Michigan State and a home win against Minnesota. Even with sophomore guard Myreon Jones sidelined with an illness, Penn State was able to hold off a second-half charge from the Golden Gophers and win 83-77. Penn State held Minnesota to just 22 points in the first half, but the Golden Gophers responded with 55 points in the second half.
“I’m really proud of my team,” Penn State coach Pat Chambers told reporters after the game. “Just so resilient in the second half there.”
Penn State has been led all season by senior forward Lamar Stevens, who earned Big Ten player of the week honors on Monday. The 6-foot-8 Stevens averaged 28.5 points, 7.0 rebounds and 38 minutes in the two games. Stevens scored a career-high 33 points in the win over Minnesota.
Fans are starting to take notice of Penn State’s success, as the Nittany Lions played in front of their first sellout in nine years on Saturday.
“I’m so thrilled that everybody likes this team, and they came out today to support this team,” Chambers said. “Because I can tell you this, when (Minnesota) did cut it to three and we got some stops, the fans got back into it. It gave us just enough energy and push to be able to finish the game off.”
The Nittany Lions will face another challenge playing at Purdue, where the Boilermakers are 10-2 this season. Purdue (14-10, 7-6) is on a three-game winning streak after knocking off rival Indiana 74-62 on Saturday in Bloomington. Purdue’s 12-point victory at Assembly Hall was its largest there since beating the Hoosiers 80-63 in 1977.
“We kept our composure at times,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said. “More than anything, I thought we had really good balance. Everybody that played, contributed.”
Painter has been able to develop a strong rotation, with 6-9 forward Trevion Williams and 6-8 forward Evan Boudreaux starting, and 7-3 center Matt Haarms and 6-9 forward Aaron Wheeler coming off the bench.
The Boilermakers also have heated up from the perimeter of late, shooting 54 percent from 3-point range (27 of 50) over their last two games.
Chambers said Monday that Jones will travel with the team to Purdue but remains questionable to play. Jones has complemented Stevens by providing offense on the perimeter, averaging 14.1 points while shooting 41.3 percent from 3-point range. Chambers said Penn State’s bench did a good job stepping up in Jones’ absence and will need to do so again if he’s out on Tuesday night.
“We can’t go out and be MJ,” Chambers said. “He is unique. He’s a scorer, and they call him ‘Buckets’ for a reason.”
–Field Level Media