UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Patrick Chambers reads the emails and is happy to receive them. In fact, he wants people to send them.
"It's very nice," he said.
But a certain type of email does bother Penn State's basketball coach. Whenever his inbox fills with congratulatory messages after close losses, it kills him. He doesn't want good feelings associated with any type of loss, no matter the margin, no matter the team.
"I always say we're close, you know?" Chambers said. "But I can never accept losing. And I will never accept losing."
A discussion of how to treat a loss is relevant because Penn State is coming off its best stretch of basketball since Big Ten Conference play began. But the Nittany Lions were 0-2 in this "best stretch," losing by small margins at home to Iowa and at No. 7 Michigan.
The Michigan game stands out.
As Chambers put it, nobody thought Penn State would come within 50 points. Penn State lost by eight.
He watched the tape of the game and listened to Big Ten Network announcers complimenting his team's play.
Again, he thought their remarks were nice. But, again, the words kind of made him sick.
The associated good vibes from the loss reinforced the thought that a decent performance against a good team should excite Penn State.
"When is it enough -- the 'so close, almost, well you didn't get it this year but better luck next year?' " Chambers said. "We have to move on from those phrases and sayings."
He knows the quickest way to change the outside world's low expectations is to win games, but that has eluded Penn State, but for different reasons than in the earlier part of conference play.
Then, the Nittany Lions couldn't score. In a three-game stretch in January against Indiana, Northwestern and Purdue, Penn State shot 31 percent, 31 percent and 26 percent. Nobody was scoring except for guards Jermaine Marshall and D.J. Newbill.
The past two games, Penn State (8-17, 0-13 Big Ten) got scoring from a third player in Sasa Borovnjak (15.5 per game) and shot the ball at better than 43 percent. But the defense faltered, with Penn State giving up 74 and 79 points, the fourth most and second most it has given up in conference play.
Chambers and players such as Marshall and Akosa Maduegbunam insisted they aren't looking past the remaining games of this lost season. Their goal is to perform at a high level now, not next year, to win and to not accept anything less, no matter how many congratulatory emails or friendly regards they get from fans, teachers and friends.
"It's like a thank you while grinding your teeth," Maduegbunam said.
"We appreciate the support. We love the support. But that's not what we're settling for."
"When is it enough -- the 'so close, almost, well you didn't get it this year but better luck next year?' We have to move on from those phrases ..."
Mark Dent: email@example.com, Twitter:@mdent05. First Published February 21, 2013 5:30 AM