I’ll be the first to admit that coming off that stunner over No. 13-ranked Virginia Tech in the ACC/BIG TEN Challenge last Tuesday, I was more than leery at the daunting task of making the turn-around and traveling south to DC to take on the red-hot Terrapins of Maryland. Football is one thing when it comes to the Terps, but basketball is a different ballgame, literally and figuratively. It’s in their blood and they’ve got the National Championship banner to prove it, even if it has been fading further away with each passing year.
Consider me pleasantly surprised then to watch our Nittany Lions leave it all out on the court this Saturday as Lamar Stevens and Co. gave the No. 24 ranked Terps all they could handle before finally falling by seven, 66-59. Penn State even managed to take a 31-30 lead into the locker room at halftime, despite cold shooting spurts throughout and kept things close until the end. Stevens continued his early-season dominance by leading all scorers with 19, and both Josh Reaves and true freshman, Rasir Bolton, scored in double figures. A loss is a loss no matter how you spin it, which leaves the Nittany Lions 4-3 overall and 0-1, but reports coming out of the Xfinity Center had even Maryland fans singing our potential as a team on the rise.
Tonight, a Big Ten conference home opener versus Indiana inside the BJC. Tipoff is at 7 p.m. and the matchup will be broadcast live on BTN. This may not exactly be the Hoosiers of Bobby Knight lore from years ago, but at 6-2 overall, head coach Archie Miller has them heading in the right direction as they continue to claw their way back to prominence. I chose claw over climb because…well…you know, climbing is what Pat Chambers has us doing even if it’s small doses of victories, amidst a loss like the one at Maryland. Life after Tony Carr and three-point ace Shep Garner has had its fair share of turbulence but all-in-all, that climb is still alive and well.
The follow-up this Saturday presents an easier challenge and a break in conference play as the Colgate Raiders invade the friendly confines of the BJC with a current 6-3 record. There’s no mistaking the Patriot League opponent for that of the rough and rugged Big Ten, so with three losses already on our plate, the Nittany Lions must take advantage with a win, preferably two this week, if they have any aspirations of dancing in March with the big boys of college basketball. A few close losses and the big victory over the Hokies a week ago in the national spotlight has this team brimming with confidence heading into the holiday slate, but close games must start going in our favor. No better time to start than tonight against Indiana, so pack the house Nittany Nation and keep climbing!