No. 20 Penn State looks to continue magical start vs. Cornell

NCAA Men's Basketball

The No. 20 Penn State Nittany Lions will be looking for their 13th consecutive home victory when they host reeling Cornell on Sunday.

Penn State last played on Dec. 20, an 87-59 lopsided victory over winless Central Connecticut.

This matchup against the Big Red will be a similar challenge for the Nittany Lions, who are competing as a ranked team for the first time since 1996. They were No. 23 when they beat the Blue Devils on Friday and have since moved up three spots.

Penn State is 10-2 and ranked for a second straight week, but head coach Patrick Chambers is far from satisfied.

“I truly believe our best basketball is ahead of us,” Chambers told reporters recently. “We haven’t seen this team hit on all cylinders yet. Maybe 20, 25 minutes at Georgetown, maybe when they were fully loaded and fully stocked, maybe. Right now, I think we have to continue to be hungry, and getting better.”

Home winning streaks and national rankings are all positive, yet the entire body of work will be more exciting if Penn State is able to keep winning and land a rare berth in the NCAA Tournament.

“It’s all good stuff,” said Chambers, who’s looking to lead Penn State to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011 and just the second time since 2001. “It’s great for the university, it’s great for the students, the alumni, the families but inside those lines, it’s like a great one win and now when we move on and that’s great, that’s positive. When I talked to the team all the time about staying present, staying in the moment you can’t win the moment if you’re not in the moment.”

Fifth-year senior Mike Watkins became the 37th player in program history to eclipse 1,000 career points against Central Connecticut State. Lamar Stevens continues to lead Penn State in scoring, averaging 16.2 points per game.

Cornell has dropped nine straight since winning its season opener, including an 80-76 loss at Hartford in its most recent game on Dec. 22.

The Big Red will attempt to earn their first win over a ranked team on the road since beating No. 17 Syracuse on Dec. 14, 1957. Their current road losing skid against ranked teams stands at 52 games.

Cornell is 6-74 all-time against ranked teams with 10 straight losses.

Cornell has also lost 12 straight road games, dating to last season.

Still, Cornell has played a number of close games this season with five losses coming by four points or less and a sixth defeat coming against Colgate in which it led by five points at halftime.

Cornell’s most dangerous player has been junior Jimmy Boeheim, the son of Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim.

Boeheim is averaging 19.3 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.3 assists while also placing in the top 25 in the Ivy League in both blocked shots and steals. Boeheim has scored at least 25 points in four games this season.

But the Big Red have continued to lose largely because of poor shooting by the majority of their players.

“This has never happened to me before,” Cornell head coach Brian Earl said. “On the spectrum of guys that I have coached and played with, these guys are not bad shooters. We shoot the ball very well in practice, but for some reason when we get into games, it is an epic drought like I’ve never seen before.”

“But, this is sort of uncharted territory for me,” he continued. “I’ve never been a part of something quite like this before.”

–Field Level Media

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