With the biggest game in years on the horizon, Pat Chambers and Shep Garner spoke with the media on Tuesday to discuss Penn State's recent winning streak and preparation for Ohio State.
The Nittany Lions shot an outrageous 78.6% from deep in their first matchup against the Buckeyes in Columbus. Pat Chambers knows that's not going to happen very often and his team will need to find a different way to win on Thursday.
"If we could defend and rebound like we did in the second half at Illinois, to hold them to 16 points, that's pretty good. It goes back to our foundation, it goes back to our identity. If the shots aren't falling, now we really have to rely on our rebounding and our defense...You never go into a game thinking you're going to hit 15 threes, so you want to go in and defend and rebound."
As the lone senior on the roster, Shep Garner has seen the ups and downs of the program over the past four years. He thinks this current stretch is the most fun version of Penn State basketball he's been around:
"I like to see dunks. I like to see the highlight dunk plays. The stuff that I can't do I like to see the most. It's fun to watch when I'm out there throwing alley-oops and stuff. It's fun to play that way but just me getting out on the basketball court, I've been playing basketball since I was a little child and every chance I have to go out there I'm having fun. There's no other place I'd rather be than on a basketball court."
Garner then clarified that he can indeed dunk, but he doesn't trust himself to do it in a game and he'd rather have the two points.
After a quiet start to the Big Ten schedule, the Penn State bench has come alive as of late. Chambers talked about how he goes about splitting up the minutes:
"It's all about strategy and what we think is best for our team. You saw Deivis [Zemgulis] started at Ohio State last time, he's not getting many minutes but he's still keeping a great attitude, he's still working hard in practice. You saw Satchel [Pierce] play against Maryland and John [Harrar] didn't play. But John played against Illinois. It's really coming down to matchups and what we think is best for us. It's a great luxury to have."
With four of the top five teams in the Big Ten remaining on the schedule, Penn State is in for its toughest stretch of the season. Garner thinks this challenge comes at the perfect time:
"Experience teaches you. I can't say we're more or less prepared but you learn from your experiences. Those games without Josh (Reaves) we learned a lot about ourselves as a team. To have him back has been great."
Garner elaborated on what his team learned by losing a player like Reaves:
"Guys stepped up. Guys got bigger roles and they played. They stepped up for our brother and now that he's back, I think everybody is that much better."
They say winning cures everything and this team is different. Chambers was asked about what the success has done for his own morale after six and three-quarter years on the job:
"I'm having a blast. I love this team. I really am, I'm enjoying this journey. Even when we were at 3-5 I was enjoying it because I knew we had the opportunity to be really good. I knew we had the talent to compete in the Big Ten and that's what got me so excited...going into games I just feel so confident."
Garner moved into the top ten on Penn State's career scoring list after the Illinois game. Despite what his famous cousin may say, Garner doesn't put too much value into those type of individual honors:
"It's more about the team. It's more about what we do as a group. Nobody really cares about the guy that did a whole bunch of stuff but lost. I'm more focused on the team. Let's win as many games as we can and everybody can get what the want."
Bonus tidbit from today's presser:
Q: Shep, are you going to Elton John in September?
Garner: Who's that?