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Micah Shrewsberry’s Tenacity Sparks Mentality Shift For Penn State Hoops

All season long, Penn State men’s basketball has played by a mantra that perfectly defines Micah Shrewsberry’s relentless on-court product — “Gritty, not pretty.”

During Tuesday night’s 62-58 upset triumph over No. 19 Michigan State, the Nittany Lions’ first-year head coach took his typically high level of “grittiness” to a previously unforeseen level. For the first time in his young tenure at the program’s helm, Shrewsberry received a technical foul following complaints about a thought-to-be missed foul call on John Harrar in the low post.

As a result of Shrewsberry’s sideline antics, Michigan State earned two free throws and an additional possession that helped catapult the Spartans to a controlling, 41-29 second-half lead.

With limited time left to mount a comeback, Penn State’s hopes of snapping its three-game losing stretch appeared unlikely, especially after Shrewsberry’s uncharacteristic temper flare-up. But instead, the Nittany Lions rallied around their locker room leader and cultivated the squad’s most inspired come-from-behind effort since his arrival in Happy Valley.

“We were all following Coach [Shrewsberry],” Harrar said. “We’re following him. We’re showing up every day and just trying to fight with him. Congratulations, coach, wherever you’re at, on your first [technical foul]. That was big-time.”

Before Shrewsberry’s fiery display, the Spartans were able to have their way offensively against the Nittany Lions’ undersized frontcourt. At the time of the technical foul, Tom Izzo’s group of versatile forwards led the way with 20 of the squad’s 41 total points, including a pair of timely three-pointers from Joey Hauser.

The combination of solid offense from the visitors paired with a visible lack of calls on the Nittany Lions’ end of the floor instantly put Shrewsberry’s 22-game technical-free streak in serious jeopardy with visible built-up frustration looming.

Although the head coach wasn’t proud of his slander towards the officiating crew postgame, his role in shifting the momentum back towards the Penn State bench didn’t go unnoticed. In fact, the display served as a clearcut testament to the instant respect and buy-in created by Shrewsberry in less than a year with his current roster.

“Immediately [after the call], Myles [Dread] came over and was like ‘Hey, we got you coach. We got you,’” Shrewsberry said. “We had an older group on the court at the time, and I thought they really responded and really played hard from that moment defensively. We really locked in, in terms of what we needed to do. I thought our offense got better from that moment on, so I don’t know. Maybe I’m [dumb] for waiting this long to get one.”

After posting single-digit scoring displays in two of his last three outputs, Seth Lundy’s offensive revival proved to be monumental in securing the Nittany Lions’ first ranked win of the campaign. The Philadelphia product amassed 17 points on 6-for-14 shooting, including five conversions from beyond the arc.

Through the game’s final 10 minutes, Lundy scorched the Spartans’ defense for eight points, including a go-ahead step-back dagger with just over a minute to go. For the budding two-way playmaker, his will to pull out the triumph stemmed from Shrewsberry’s unity-based mentality spanning from his connective huddle after the technical call.

“He just loves winning. That’s all it is,” Lundy said about Shrewsberry. “Him just being aggressive and into the game, just trying to help us out as players. He always says, ‘I’m going to handle the rest, [you guys shouldn’t] worry about it. Just play the game.’ He said that he was going to get [a technical foul] eventually, but we’re just going to keep fighting for him, and he’s going to keep fighting for us. We just have each other’s back.”

Aside from Lundy, the late comeback push could not have been spurred without the tenacious services of Harrar in the paint. Behind 16 points and 16 rebounds, the ultimate teammate was able to will the Nittany Lions to his 13th ranked victory while representing the blue and white, including the first of Shrewsberry’s head coaching career.

Additionally, the win epitomized the reason Harrar decided to return to Penn State from the transfer portal after being linked with interest in Michigan State for his extra season of eligibility.

Instead, the Nittany Lion staple notched one of his most productive matchups during his five-year span. The effort was marked by two game-changing offensive rebounds and a powerful three-point-play to seal the deal in the closing seconds.

The display of relentlessness not only defined Harrar’s legacy in Happy Valley but proved to be a building block for the next phase of the Shrewsberry era following the DelCo native’s looming departure.

After all, Shrewsberry convinced Harrar to trust his vision as a first-time Division I head coach without any prior personal connection. With his relationship-based foundation and his innate ability to cultivate a group, there is no reason why Harrar’s role in setting the newfound standard for Penn State basketball won’t be continued long into the future under Shrewsberry’s fervent guidance.

“We were following his lead, his leadership, his gritty not pretty [mindset],” Harrar said about Shrewsberry. “I mean, I’m trying to buy into that to the ‘T’. Gritty, not pretty — that’s what’s going to win games in the Big Ten.”

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About the Author

Connor Krause

Connor Krause is a senior from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania double majoring in journalism and business. He is a lifelong Penn State football and basketball fan and enjoys rooting for Pittsburgh sports teams. In his free time, Connor can be found playing golf or pick-up basketball. You can follow his Twitter and Instagram @ckrause_31.

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