Big Ten Tournament: PSU From the Podium

The Nittany Lions talk about their upset of Iowa in the second round of B1Gs.


PAT CHAMBERS: Wow, what a rock fight out there, just two teams playing incredibly hard, intense, giving it up for their teammates and coaches. We’re fortunate to come out as winners. I’m really proud of my team. Our first half we really struggled. Give Iowa all the credit for that. Their defense was really tough. And then in the second half, we found our confidence. We saw the ball go through the basket a little bit more. We got a few more stops than we did in the first half, and you know, luckily made some plays down the stretch.

D.J. had a stretch where he was unbelievable. Ross Travis’ play at the end really was pivotal. For a senior to step up like that knowing that the shot clock is going down, and doing the right thing for his teammates to get to the basket.

The team really contributed in every way. I’m really proud of them, and we’re happy to stay in Chicago another day.

Q. Ross, just talk about senior leadership and the fire you guys have to keep the season going.

ROSS TRAVIS: Man, it’s huge, that senior leadership. Me and D.J. right here, the seniors, the younger guys all look up to us to lead them through this tournament, this journey that we’re going through right now, and we’re going out there and giving it our all.

D.J. Newbill: Well, definitely the senior leadership is helping out, but I think the main thing is everyone is holding each other accountable. We’re out there playing for one another, playing for pride, playing for the name on the front of our jerseys.

Q. D.J., you scored four points on a possession after McCaffery got the technical. Did that fire you up in any way?

D.J. NEWBILL: I mean, I wouldn’t say it fired me up. Just out there just trying to help out my teammates. I’m fired up for the whole game just to be out there to play another game and wear the jersey again, not one play going to change my mindset.

Q. Ross, at the end of the game there, you had the three point play that was really big. Did you expect that the ball may be in your hands in a clutch situation like that?

ROSS TRAVIS: You know, I just saw the shot clock winding down and the ball was in my hands, so I just had to baseline it to make the play. It went in, I made the free throw, and it was a big moment in the game.

Q. There’s some media members saying, like, Penn State is the team that nobody wants to face. Talk about the toughness that you guys are bringing and all the close games this season and now it’s the end of the season and you guys are dogfighting it out. Talk about how nobody wants to play you guys.

D.J. NEWBILL: I think that the culture that we created, the senior leaders, Coach Chambers and his staff, they just played relentless, playing gritty, playing tough, playing physical. I think everyone knows when they play us it’s going to be a dogfight, that that’s how we like to play.

ROSS TRAVIS: You know, like he just mentioned, playing gritty, we don’t quit. We come back every day and we put in the work. It all starts with D.J. and Coach Chambers down there. They instilled hard work in all of us, and we just go out there and play.

Q. As you mentioned, you guys have had a lot of close losses, and one of those was the opponent you’re going to play next, Purdue. What do you remember about that game, and those close losses, did they help kind of give you guys some resolve coming into the Big Ten Tournament?

ROSS TRAVIS: Yeah, I think we could take something from each of those close losses. Those close losses hurt the most, but we could take a whole lot from them. One thing that I remember from Purdue is they play hard, just like us, so we’re going to have to go out there and play harder than them.

D.J. NEWBILL: Well, yeah, definitely. Being in those late game situations, four minute games, two minute games, coming down to one possession, one stop, one rebound, I think we learn from that because we’ve lost so many. But yeah, I think we’re a different team then than we are now. We’re looking forward to a dogfight. Purdue plays hard, like Ross said, and we play hard, so it’s going to be a great one.

Q. D.J., I heard you say yesterday very candidly that you were kind of disappointed being left off the First Team All Conference Team. Do you feel like the deeper you go into the tournament the more you’re kind of showing that you belong with that top group?

D.J. NEWBILL: I’m just focused on playing hard for my teammates. The voting is over, I can’t go back and change it, so right now I’m just focused on playing game by game.

Q. Just talk about the senior leadership, Ross stepping up, and just how the seniors kind of put this team on their back today and dug it out.

PAT CHAMBERS: Yeah, they really stepped up at a critical point in the game to give us a little cushion, D.J.’s little run, and Ross did it throughout the entire game. He played really hard, battling those guys inside. They’re huge, and he was fearless in there.

I was really proud of them for this fact: It’s noted that he’s not a great free throw shooter, and everybody knows that. He was five for six today, and that’s what seniors do. They step up, they seize the moment, and they take care of business, and I couldn’t be happier for Ross Travis and our team.

D.J.’s leadership in huddles was amazing. Him and I were both coaching the team in huddles, coaching, what are we doing if this happens, if this occurs this is what we’re doing.

Give Brandon Taylor a lot of credit, he put the ball out, a junior that we’re trying to develop him into the next leader, so those guys really did a phenomenal job, all game long in game, but more importantly in the huddles.

Q. Ross’s baseline drive, had you ever seen anything like that from him before even in practice?

PAT CHAMBERS: Yeah, actually we have. We have a drill we call lay up drill, so we work on — lay ups are so critical on any level, and if you can make lay ups, it’s really going to help you out, and we work on baseline drives from the corners, and we work on that reverse to exactly what he did. I’ve seen him do it for four years. But the tenaciousness of him driving so hard, knowing time and score, knowing how to get to the — we were saying just get to the free throw line. Whatever you do, drive it hard, straight line drive, get bumped, you’ll get to the free throw line, we’ll win the game from there. But we were fortunate enough for him to finish strong, and he’s a really great finisher. Ross is really good filling lanes and doing the little things for us.

Q. It is being said that nobody really wants to play you guys, you guys are on a roll, you’re a tough team. Talk about how you’re being perceived out there and the style of play you’ve developed here.

PAT CHAMBERS: I’m happy for the players. For January and some of February, we were getting knocked around pretty good in the media, in the social media. I’m really happy for them. You saw us play, and we competed almost every single game in the Big Ten except for a couple, and that’s hard to do when you’re losing. It’s really, really hard. Ross and D.J. said it. We instilled come back to work. That’s what men do. They come back, try to get better, try to correct the problems, but be solution driven in everything we do and prepare ourselves to be the best team we can be by the end of the year.

I was hoping it would be in January. I was hoping it would be in February. It just happened to be in March. I’ll take it, but I’m happy for them.

Q. What do you remember about the Purdue game, being one of those games that sort of got away —

PAT CHAMBERS: Do I have to? Do I really have to? I’m going to be old and retired somewhere and I’m going to wake up, and it’s going to be that three in the corner after we fouled and we had the rebound right there in our hands. We had four guys around it. Hammons does a great job and deflects it out, and it just so happens Stevenson gets the ball. Think about the percentages of that happening. But we learned from that. We really did learn from that experience because we didn’t play very well in overtime at all.

But we take that, you learn from failure, and hopefully you turn it around. But Hammons has played just terrific. Matt has done a great job with them this year. I mean, where they were predicted and where they finished, top four, there’s something to be said for the job he did this year. I know Bo and Turg, they got those awards, but Matt Painter is right there in my mind.

Q. Coach, Iowa’s guards made a combined three points. Talk about how you guys made that happen, made those stops?

PAT CHAMBERS: I don’t think anyone gives Gesell enough credit. He’s the little engine that could, and they all just look at him, kind of 6’0”, not a great three point shooter. However, our game plan was try to slow him down. If you could slow him down, it might affect the flow of their offense, and I’ll watch film, I’m not sure if we did that effectively, but I think we did a pretty good job of it on him and Jok, and Uthoff is terrific, and Clemmons. But I thought we did it as a team. Obviously we did it — we over helped sometimes because they got 19 offensive rebounds, so again, we’ve got to clean that up, 24 the night before, 19, and now we’re facing Hammons and that’s going to be a challenge. But our game plan was to slow down Gesell.


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