Penn State Hoops Eyeing March With Latest Momentum Shift

Thirty-point leads don’t happen often. Especially coming off of a 20-point road loss, 30-point leads are tough to manufacture.

However, midway through the second half of Penn State men’s basketball’s Sunday matchup with Michigan, Micah Shrewsberry’s lineup was leading by 32 and in the midst of an 18-0 run.

Shrewsberry, who was frustrated and disappointed with the Nittany Lions’ “soft” performance against Rutgers, knew his squad was going to bounce back as a team despite an ugly loss just five days earlier.

“I know this group. I know their character. I know their makeup,” Shrewsberry said. “I knew how they were going to play today. I didn’t know we were going to win like this. I knew they were going to compete the right way. Play the right way.”

Now, every game is pivotal for the hope of a postseason berth to stay alive. Penn State has just one conference road win thus far, which contrasts an 11-1 home record on the season.

“We’ve got a really good shooting team at home and that’s got to travel on the road for us now,” senior guard Jalen Pickett said. “It was good energy even after the loss at Rutgers. We feel that we have a good stretch coming up where we can get some real wins.”

The upcoming stretch of games begins with a trip to No. 1 Purdue’s Mackey Arena, then to Lincoln, Minneapolis, and Columbus. Only four home stops are scattered throughout the Nittany Lions’ 10 remaining games. Nearly every match will make or break Penn State’s chances of an NCAA Tournament bubble bid.

While the importance of the Nittany Lions’ road performance is critical, a notch in the win columns of Shrewsberry’s four remaining home games is the cherry on top of the possibility of playing ball in March.

“We have four home games left and they’re all big and they’re all magnified,” Shrewsberry said. “We need everybody that can make it to help us. Help us through and help us make a push towards March.”

Pickett has been a huge program catalyst that’s bought into Shrewsberry’s mentality and led it to new heights. Just last year, Penn State capped its season with 14 wins through 31 games. This time around, the Nittany Lions reached 14 wins with 10 games left to play.

“Jalen’s been having a great year, and he’s playing extremely well,” Michigan head coach Juwan Howard said. “He’s a special young man. He’s bought into coach [Shrewsberry’s] system, and he’s been extremely effective.”

The college basketball veteran tallied 25 points, eight assists, and eight rebounds in the team’s outing against Michigan and helped lead the 18-0 run that dictated the result of the game. Still, Shrewsberry, who never gets too far ahead of himself, recognized that it’s still a game-by-game season for his team.

“We played with more purpose offensively,” Shrewsberry said. “There’s no secret but you also have to do it every single time and just because we did it tonight against Michigan doesn’t mean we’re going to do it again against Purdue. We have to play the same way. We have to play with the same purpose.”

Purpose and execution are exactly what will carry the Nittany Lions into their first potential NCAA Tournament appearance in 12 years, especially if they continue to power through big wins and recover confidently after big losses.

“The calendar is about to flip to February, and we want to be playing our best basketball through February into March,” Shrewsberry said. “We have to continue to play the right way no matter what the score is.”

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About the Author

Keeley Lamm

Keeley is a junior journalism major from Richmond, Virginia, and is Onward State's managing editor. She also talks about awesome stuff on our podcast, Podward State. Keeley is a lover of grilled cheese and Kevin Jonas. If you'd like to share your thoughts on the superior Jonas Brother, feel free to contact her on Twitter @keeleylammm or send your best joke to her email [email protected].

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