Penn State Quotes
COACH CHAMBERS: Proud of my team. Down the stretch, end of February, March, we had some difficult losses. I felt like we were still competing, playing hard, getting better.
The last couple days, I really think these guys just banded together like brothers and said, We can't go out like this. We have to go defend, rebound, keep teams under 70, find success. That was the way it was Monday, then Tuesday in practice.
We just had a really good approach and a good mindset. I felt like their energy, their juice. They were ready to compete and take that next step. Again, for us, nothing is easy. We go into overtime. You don't know how this team is going to respond because we've been there before, Indiana and Purdue, to name a couple. Man, did they punch back, and they punched back quick.
That was a major breakthrough for this program.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for the students.
Q. Mike, you played this team three weeks ago, eight points, three rebounds, two blocks. Seemed like you tripled all of your numbers. What changed in the past three weeks?
MIKE WATKINS: We worked hard in practice, we defended and rebounded. Practice was very good. I knew coming into this game, it was going to be very good for me.
Q. Lamar, talk about your next game against Michigan State. You played them before. What did you learn from that?
LAMAR STEVENS: They're a really good team, with a great coach, Tom Izzo. We haven't focused on them yet, haven't talked about them yet. We're happy to get this win.
But we're going to prepare. I think we're going to be ready by tomorrow.
Q. When Josh Reaves had that short injury, you put Nebraska into another scoring drought. Did you say anything as a team to try to make up for the loss of Josh?
MIKE WATKINS: Like when one man go down, we pick him up, injured or not.
LAMAR STEVENS: I really credit our leaders and our upperclassmen. They always keep us composed, being such a young team. So I credit Shep, Payton, and them for really keeping us fighting, keeping us levelheaded, and not really worried.
Q. Lamar, down the stretch of the season, you came out on the wrong end of some of these overtime games. What was going on today where you were finally able to break through and come out with a win?
LAMAR STEVENS: I think our non-conference and our conference play really prepared us for times like this, going through so many close games, coming out on the short end of the stick. I think it really prepared us. We learned from those mistakes. I feel like that's what enabled us to come out and get this win today.
Q. You didn't win a game in overtime heading into this game. Did that cross your minds at all? Was there any doubt?
MIKE WATKINS: Going into overtime, coach was just like, Keep fighting, keep fighting. As a team, that's what we went out and did. Not looking in the past.
LAMAR STEVENS: Like I said, I think our conference play in those really close games really helped us be ready for those situations, taught us how to learn in overtime. I think it showed today.
Q. Mike, today's performance, you set the record for rebounds in a Big Ten tournament game. How does this affect your confidence going forward for tomorrow and possibly beyond?
MIKE WATKINS: Well, me personally, if I bring the same energy, and my team bring the same energy, we should come out good.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much, fellas. We'll take questions for Coach Chambers.
Q. Coach, Shep has had an up-and-down season all year, then he had to come off the bench today due to an injury. What did it mean for him to make that three in the middle of overtime?
COACH CHAMBERS: I thought it was huge for Shep, for his confidence, for his teammates. You could see it, especially before the game, you could see it at halftime when they were shooting around. He looked good. He felt good. That experience of playing in the Big Ten these last couple years really shined through today. He gutted it out, for sure, because of his foot.
Q. Coach, I talked to you on Media Day. You told me how excited you were for your freshmen class. Through an entire season with them, what have you seen from them and how important are they to the future of this program?
COACH CHAMBERS: The growth and the maturity, again, it's not going to reflect in our wins, but the growth and maturity of this group, you could really see it, I can specifically see it, from all the Albany game all the way to today.
I mean, they've gotten a lot better. Their habits are stronger. They're more confident. They know exactly what we're doing.
That's only going to continue because they're very coachable. They want to find success. If we continue on this path, the future's bright for Penn State basketball.
Q. With this being an overtime game, you have a quick turnaround, how does your staff prepare for playing again tomorrow? What do you tell the kids on how to prepare beyond saying, Stay off your feet, get some rest?
COACH CHAMBERS: I actually met with our trainer and our strength coach. We formulated a plan of what we're going to do tonight, how we're going to help them with I'll just say cold tubs, get them fresh legs, make sure they're getting rest, hydrate. Again, off their feet. Feed them, as well.
It's a plan, for sure. I just told them, We'll do our job by watching Michigan State. You have to do your job. That's listen, get them in the pool for a little bit, get their muscles moving, then get ready to work.
Q. Talk about Mike Watkins, a double-double tonight. What does he bring to the team, his energy?
COACH CHAMBERS: Just in general about the growth of these freshmen. Over the last few weeks, I've seen a change in Mike Watkins. Got a long way to go, but I've seen a change. There's more consistent effort there. There's more willingness there. He's really starting to create some new habits. He knows he's the anchor of this defense. He knows when he rebounds the ball at a high level, and he's a great shot-blocker, obviously, that we typically win, that we find success.
The stat is, when we hold opponents under 70, we win. We went into overtime, and we still held them under 70, which is a great thing. Mike is a big reason for that. He's very coachable, very coachable kid. He is still learning and growing.
I'm excited for Mike.
Q. Back to playing again tomorrow. Did you learn anything from the Hall of Fame tournament earlier this year?
COACH CHAMBERS: I don't even want to think about that weekend, to be honest with you. We're a different team now. We're just a different team. We prepare differently. Our approach is different. Our mindset is different.
I'm just going to focus on what we're doing right here and right now.
Q. Talk about tomorrow. What do you have to do? What are you going to fix tonight to get ready for the game against Michigan State tomorrow?
COACH CHAMBERS: We got to play hard, defend, rebound, bring some energy. Everybody is going to tell them, How you going to be ready? They're 18-22. This is what they live for. They would rather not practice. They would rather play 30 games in 30 days. Trust me (laughter).
Hopefully these young legs are ready to play. It's the minds that we got to work on, make sure they're fresh. We'll do that.
Q. You called this game earlier today a big moment for your program. What kind of moment was it earlier this season when you played Michigan State, what kind of moment could it be tomorrow if you play a winning style?
COACH CHAMBERS: Yeah, Penn State basketball is inching closer, for sure. I mean, that was a huge win for us at the Palestra, so many levels. Today, to learn from past experiences from the Big Ten, to be able to not think those negative thoughts, come out and compete the way we did in that overtime, it just shows you the character of this team.
We don't have a senior on the team. That bodes very, very well for our future. We'll go out tomorrow, we'll compete. We'll get ready tonight. We just got to compete, have a great mindset, see what happens.
THE MODERATOR: Coach, thank you very much. Good luck tomorrow.
COACH CHAMBERS: Thank you.
COACH MILES: I'm obviously greatly disappointed that our season's come to an end. We have a guy like Tai Webster who developed into an all-league guard, have his career end. He's been a pleasure to coach.
I have to credit Penn State doing the things, took away some of the things we do well, and made enough shots to stretch it out in overtime and get the win.
We'll take any, questions.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student-athletes.
Q. Tai, talk about the overtime, what happened in the overtime? Did you go ice cold during the overtime period?
TAI WEBSTER: They just made a couple plays down the stretch. The ball seemed like it wasn't dropping in for us. Had a couple good looks, but unfortunately couldn't capitalize on those looks.
Q. For any of the players. It seemed like the first time you played them this season, Mike Watkins was held in check. He had a big game tonight. Did you try to guard him differently tonight?
EVAN TAYLOR: Honestly, I mean, the game plan was the same. Obviously he's a good player. Good players are going to make plays.
I feel like our bigs, they did a good job on him. Us as guards could have helped more. I mean, there's not really much to say about it. Credit to him having a good game when it mattered.
THE MODERATOR: Fellas, you may return to the locker room. We'll go to questions for Coach Miles.
Q. Tony Carr has a lot of the final positions throughout the season. Were you keying him towards the end with the final possessions?
COACH MILES: Yeah, we thought that Tai was matchup on him. Tai is a strong guard, Tony. He felt like he could go one-on-one with him. It got him in foul trouble, though. I think that was a key part of the game. We talked on and off about doubling. We went after one of his ball screens pretty hard the first possession of overtime. We brought two to him. Then Isaiah Roby tagged. Threw it back to Stevens for his second of the game. That was a big play, to get overtime started.
Then sure enough, we go down, I think a possession or two later, and Tai misses a bonus and fouls out. Just kind of frustration. That kind of sums up our year.
Q. Along that line, how would you describe this season? You've had some good wins, a tough finish, the rollercoaster nature of it.
COACH MILES: As we went into the year, we knew we were going to be a little bit short on outside shooting. At Christmas, we played probably the number one non-conference schedule in the country, so we played Creighton when they were ranked and healthy, at Kansas, played UCLA, we played Clemson at Clemson, Virginia Tech, Dayton, a lot of quality teams.
We were only 6-6 at Christmas, but we felt very good. We started out 3-0. We're feeling it. Ed Morrow says, My foot hurts. That was kind of the beginning of the end. He tried to play the next game. He didn't play for how many? 1-6 in that stretch. Lost consecutive one-point games.
I think at the end, there were some guys that were worn out, but I was proud of them tonight coming out. Although we didn't have great rhythm, we fought back, found a way to get it to Tai. Showed a lot of resolve that way. But then, like I say, that play where Tai misses the bonus, Shep circles in and out, hits the background, goes in. I don't know how you would have called that one on a radio. That seems like it sums up our year. Simplest error, someone makes a play on us, look up, you're dead in the water with two minutes left.
Q. It seemed like you would go through long stretches where the offense would hit a wall, then bounce back out of it. What do you attribute that to?
COACH MILES: I think Watkins had a big deal to do with that. He had eight blocks. More importantly, every timeout, we have it at the rim, twos and threes. We have our numbers at 12 for 35 at the rim. You'd expect to shoot 55%, 60% at the rim, at least, even in a well-contested game.
I thought they did a good job of protecting the rim, even in transition. We had a few plays, one in overtime, where I thought we were at the rim and maybe we had a chance to draw contact and get a foul. Penn State did a great job defending. We just couldn't get anything going at the rim. That hurts us.
Q. Tim, talk about your seniors, your two seniors. What have they meant for you guys this year?
COACH MILES: Well, Tai Webster is the one that plays, right? Tai has been a kid that I'm proud of because he never quit. He came as a much-heralded recruit, started on an NCAA tournament team, but wasn't very productive. I think they called him the least productive Big Ten starter. That's not a great reputation to start with, right?
The next year he fell out of the rotation, then he fought back, had a pretty good year last year, averaged over 10 points a game, even more than that in the league. This year he's been really good for us all year.
It's always the same thing with Tai. Guard their best player, score all our points, right? I have a lot of respect for him not quitting, just staying with it. A lot of times nowadays guys, if they're not getting exactly what they want, they'll go. Tai would never do that. Had every opportunity to. He had professional offers I believe at the end of almost every year. Back home, for sure. He turned them down, turned down a lot of money to stay with his college basketball career.
Q. Coach, right after the game, your athletic director tweeted out, Looking forward to next year with Coach Miles in charge.
COACH MILES: I'm back (laughter).
Q. What were you thoughts?
COACH MILES: He and I talked over the last few weeks. There was no doubt that he was with me and supporting me. I knew he would probably do something after the season in his own way.
He's a man that believes in us, supports us. Even when we were struggling, he wouldn't waver. Although the media has a field day with it, I guess they're just bored.
He's been there and I'm going to come through for him. We're going to show him his faith in us is justified.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, coach.
COACH MILES: Thanks.