Two years ago, Patrick Chambers' Boston University team visited New Hampshire. The Terriers were 10-12 at the time and were hosted by a group of Wildcats that was 8-12 and 2-6 in the America East Conference.
Patrick Chambers knows to expect a fight from Bill Herrion and New Hampshire on Sunday.
New Hampshire shot 32 percent from the field that day -- and won by a dozen points.
Chambers remembers Bill Herrion's team, short on talent but not on desire, out-hustling his squad and winning with will, not skill.
"They exposed us, they beat us in every facet of the game," Chambers said Friday. "It was the turning point."
The next time Boston lost a game -- after 11 straight wins, including a nine-point defeat of UNH -- came nearly two months later, to Kansas in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Not only did the beatdown Herrion and his team handed his squad galvanize the 2010-11 Terriers, it also helped Chambers crystallize his coaching philosophy.
At 11 a.m. Sunday in the Bryce Jordan Center, Chambers will face Herrion and New Hampshire again, this time as Penn State's head coach. The Nittany Lions (6-4) are on their first winning streak of the young season (two games) but have, as many predicted, struggled at both ends since the loss of senior guard Tim Frazier to a season-ending Achilles injury in late November.
The shooting has been better over the last two games (a combined 50 percent) but the Nittany Lions still check in at 40 percent on the season, last in the Big Ten. Defensively, the Nittany Lions rank last in the conference in field goal percentage defense and 315th out of 345 Division I teams in 3-point percentage defense.
But Penn State has hung around and pulled out wins in four of its last six games the same way New Hampshire beat Boston two years ago -- with grit and desire and, above all else, attitude.
"Attitude Club has been the reason why we're 6-4," Chambers said.
As they did last season, the Nittany Lions earn points at each practice and each game for coming up with loose balls, drawing charges, even floor dives -- attitude plays that help determine the amount of playing time they'll see and, as Chambers understands well, can often add up to mean the difference between a two-point win and a two-point loss.
Chambers isn't expecting as much precision from his young squad at this point as he is confident play and effort.
"If you're going to make a mistake, do it hard," Chambers said. "If you miss the rotation, just do it hard; maybe we can mask it a little bit."
The Wildcats (4-6) are shooting just 31 percent from 3-point range this season and have reached 60 points just twice in the last six games. Senior guard Ferg Myrick, though, who leads the Wildcats at 15.7 points per game, is connecting at a 38 percent clip from the arc. Shutting him down from the outside could be a solid test for a Penn State team that will face plenty of quality perimeter shooters during the Big Ten season.
"We've got to do a better job of knowing personnel," Chambers said. "We talk about personnel all the time in our scouting reports. Understand who you're closing out on, who you're guarding."