Penn State Hoops Taking ‘Short Memory’ Approach Amid Challenging Schedule

After Penn State men’s basketball’s loss to Ohio State, Siena transfer Jalen Pickett said the biggest thing he noticed about Big Ten play was the difference in physicality.

The senior guard played all 40 minutes of the game, leading the way with 23 points as the Nittany Lions’ comeback bid fell short. Amid Penn State’s 4-4 start to the season, head coach Micah Shrewsberry is trying to balance improvement and hard work with rest and recovery as the schedule heats up.

“John [Harrar] lays his body on the line every night. Jalen Pickett played 40 minutes the other night. I can’t come out here and expect those guys to practice for three hours,” Shrewsberry said on Monday. “We have to shorten what we do today because, physically, they need to be ready to go on Wednesday.”

Harrar played 26 minutes himself against the Buckeyes, recording his fourth double-double of the season. Just like with any big man, Harrar’s playtime is limited by how quickly he gets into foul trouble. With Greg Lee and Jevonnie Scott sidelined, the Nittany Lions want to limit the Delco native’s fouls to get him as many minutes as possible.

Shrewsberry commented after the game that he’d play Harrar the full game just like Pickett if he could. But, with a whirlwind of a schedule on the horizon, the head coach’s minute distribution tactics do come with a downside. His players need time to rest, and that can cut into precious time the group also needs to tinker with the scheme.

With a game against Northeast Conference foe Wagner teed up for Wednesday, it might be easy to think the Nittany Lions can take this midweek matchup as an opportunity to rest. However, Shrewsberry was quick to remind folks that the Seahawks made the NCAA Tournament last year and will play Penn State as tough as a conference opponent.

“If you think you’re playing hard, you’re going to see what playing hard looks like on Wednesday,” Shrewsberry said he told his players. “It’s going to be a major, major test.”

When you’re basically a brand-new team like Penn State is, practice time is precious. With a roster full of out-of-conference transfers, it can be hard for new additions to adjust to life in the Big Ten and gel with their teammates.

The Nittany Lions’ 4-4 record shows it’s a team that’s still learning itself and feeling things out, but being a .500 team ahead of conference play isn’t the end of the world. Things will eventually start to click, guys will recover from injury, and Penn State will find more of a groove as the season progresses.

“It’s like growing pains. We’re still trying to get to know each other. It’s a brand-new team and I feel like a lot of people forget that,” Seth Lundy said on Monday. “We’re still trying to get used to each other, get that chemistry, stuff like that.”

You’re only as good as your record says you are, but all things considered, Penn State feels like a better team than 4-4. In some of its first few games in a new era, it took now-No. 25 LSU and now-No. 21 Ohio State down to the wire.

The Nittany Lions have shown flashes of impressive play but have struggled to put together full 40-minute performances at times. In a conference as tough as the Big Ten, you need every win you can get, but you can afford to take things with a grain of salt when you’re eight games into a new head coach’s tenure.

Shrewsberry doesn’t believe in moral victories, but he said you can “live with the results” when you play a hard-nosed brand of basketball.

“If we’re going to lay it all out on the line, I’ll be OK with that, and I think our guys should be OK with that,” Shrewsberry said. “Nobody likes losing. I hate losing. I’m the worst person in the world to be around when we lose, but I’m okay with the process of getting better.”

Penn State has a full slate of Big Ten games ahead of it. The season is young, and there’s certainly lots of room for improvement and experimentation.

With all the moving parts of load management, short turnaround times, and tough losses, Penn State is taking the approach of having a short memory. While Shrewsberry wants his team to remember the things it did right and the big mistakes it’s made, it’s impossible to grow if you’re constantly dwelling on the past.

“You have to have a short memory,” he said. “We’re back to work.”

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About the Author

Ryan Parsons

Ryan is a redshirt senior majoring in business and journalism from "Philadelphia" and mostly writes about football nowadays. You can follow him on Twitter @rjparsons9 or say hi via email at [email protected].

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