Penn State Hoops Struggling With Mental Conditioning
Penn State men’s basketball is coming off of three straight losses to end the regular season and is missing big man Mike Watkins to a right leg injury. All season, Coach Pat Chambers has stressed mental conditioning as one of the biggest keys to success for what is still a young team. It has been a roller coaster season for the Nittany Lions, and their mental conditioning has been put to the test.
Four different players on the team have been suspended at some point during the season. Mike Watkins, Tony Carr, Nazeer Bostick, and Josh Reaves all play crucial roles for Coach Pat Chambers, but Chambers was unable to rely on his players throughout the season, due to academic or otherwise unspecified suspensions.
Watkins, Carr, and Bostick were all suspended earlier in the season, but Reaves’ suspension was the most crucially timed. Reaves missed four games against Indiana, Nebraska, Minnesota, and Northwestern, a span that saw the Nittany Lions go 1-3 to teams they could’ve easily handled if at full strength.
During Reaves’ absence, the team often looked beat down and distraught, playing from behind and unable to get crucial stops. Reaves returned in time for Tony Carr’s buzzer-beating three-pointer to upset Ohio State in Columbus.
Following the win against Ohio State, Penn State won six of its next seven games, only losing to Michigan State and generating some NCAA Tournament buzz in Happy Valley.
Chambers on moving forward: "My phrase all year has been mental conditioning. These guys are dialed in right now." Says the Nittany Lions will likely focus on free throws this weekend.
— Onward Sports (@OnwardStSports) February 16, 2018
Now with the status of Watkins uncertain and coming off of three consecutive losses to end the regular season, that lack of concentration and awareness has begun to rear its ugly head yet again. The Nittany Lions played arguably their worst game of the season against Nebraska, turning the ball over often, taking bad shots, and missing free throws. They now rank in the bottom five of the Big Ten in free throw shooting percentage and turnovers.
Now, heading into the into the Big Ten tournament with what seems like a lack of confidence, Chambers will have to really test his players’ mental conditioning.
“It’s a new season. This is a new start,” Chambers said of the Big Ten Tournament. “We are still being led by sophomores — every experience will help these kids. We have to have this growth mindset and enjoy the experience.”
Knowing its season will be over if it loses, Penn State has to play with the same confidence and killer mindset that fans were accustomed to seeing when the Nittany Lions were one of the hottest teams in the country less than two weeks ago. If they come out Thursday like they did against Nebraska, the Nittany Lions’ season will be over and their tournament hopes will be long gone.
If Chambers can get his squad to show some real mental conditioning, however, Penn State could make things interesting with a deep run in the Big Ten Tournament.
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With barely six weeks until the first ball is kicked for the 2020 campaign, let’s see how the Nittany Lions might line up.
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