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Harris: No alibis for PSU’s loss to Dukes |

Harris: No alibis for PSU’s loss to Dukes

John Harris
| Tuesday, December 13, 2011 12:00 a.m

Patrick Chambers’ ability to recruit no doubt helped him become the basketball coach at Penn State, which for years has attempted — without success — to attract talented East Coast players.

Chambers, however, still has a few things to learn. He’s not coaching at Boston University anymore — he’s coaching in the Big Ten.

When Penn State lost to Duquesne, 66-59, on Saturday night at Consol Energy Center, here’s what Chambers should have said:

“Hats off to Duquesne. They were the better team tonight.”

Here’s what Chambers actually said: “When you’re in a tight game on the road, you get a little nervous. We’ve got a youthful team. Inexperienced team. They were a little tight, made poor decisions.”

Maybe, when Penn State visited Kentucky last month and lost, 85-47, or when the Nittany Lions face Ohio State in Columbus on Jan. 25, Chambers can get away with that sort of talk.

But not against Duquesne. Not now. Not ever.

It’s an unwritten rule. Coaches of teams in BCS conferences can’t alibi when they lose to a team from a non-BCS conference, unless that school is Butler of the Horizon League or Xavier of the Atlantic 10 — the same league which includes Duquesne. Those who must do so at their own risk.

Penn State has too many resources, starting with its Big Ten affiliation. Chambers can visit homes of recruits that Duquesne coach Ron Everhart can only dream about, simply because most talented kids will at least consider a Big Ten school because of the league’s reputation before they would consider, say, Duquesne.

Penn State doesn’t have to win the Big Ten to play in the NCAA Tournament. The Nittany Lions advanced to last year’s NCAAs with a 19-14 record.

No such luck at Duquesne, where the Dukes have to win their conference tournament to receive the league’s automatic NCAA bid, or hope that their strength of schedule or the school’s reputation earns them an at-large bid.

It’s why Everhart scheduled nonconference games this season against NCAA tournament teams Pitt, Arizona and Penn State. The Dukes are 1-2 in those games.

Everhart’s halftime message against Penn State spoke to the mentality required by coaches and players to survive at the mid-major level, especially when facing a BCS team like the Nittany Lions.

“I told our guys they were licking their wounds and feeling sorry for themselves,” said Everhart, who indicated to his players in no uncertain terms that mid-major players can’t afford to feel sorry for themselves.

Point taken. Trailing 32-29 at halftime, the Dukes outscored Penn State, 37-27, in the second half, to win going away. In the process, the Dukes forced 23 turnovers.

“We came out with a chip on our shoulder,” Duquesne senior Jerry Jones said about the Dukes’ second-half turnaround.

Everhart interviewed for the Penn State job that went to Chambers, presumably because of Chambers’ recruiting prowess — particularly in the Philadelphia area. Whether Everhart was offered the Penn State job or was merely granted a courtesy interview is anyone’s guess.

Everhart said he’s happy at Duquesne, and that while interviewing at Penn State was flattering, Pittsburgh is where he wants to be. Good for him. But why interview at Penn State if you’re not interested?

Never underestimate the lure of coaching at a BCS school. The money and resources are better, and the players are more talented.

That’s what makes Duquesne’s win over Penn State so impressive.

Four days after losing to Robert Morris, Duquesne’s weaknesses weren’t as apparent against Penn State as they were against the Colonials, who are coached by 31-year-old Andrew Toole, the youngest coach in Division I and a Brad Stevens clone. Stevens coaches at Butler and is the youngest coach to lead his team to two Final Fours. Toole has gotten off to a fast start in his second season at Robert Morris.

Toole’s Robert Morris team beat Everhart’s Duquesne team, which brought out the worst in Chambers’ Penn State team. Score one for the little guys.

Photo Galleries

Duquesne vs. Penn State

Duquesne vs. Penn State

The Duquesne Dukes men’s basketball team defeats Penn State 66-59 at the CONSOL Energy Center on Saturday December 10, 2011.

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