‘No Quit In This Group’: Micah Shrewsberry’s Accountability Proves Crucial In Moving Penn State Hoops Forward
With a half remaining in Penn State men’s basketball’s pivotal home matchup with Rutgers on Sunday, the Nittany Lions held a sturdy 10-point lead heading into the locker room.
Throughout the stretch, Micah Shrewsberry’s unit led by as many as 17, behind 11 points courtesy of Jalen Pickett and another 10 from his backcourt counterpart, Cam Wynter.
However, when Rutgers established a half-ending 7-0 run, the beginning of the end appeared imminent for Shrewsberry from a schematic standpoint.
“I’m going to make mistakes, but I don’t want to let them down,” Shrewsberry said Monday afternoon. “That’s where a lot of my frustrations come in, you know, for myself, is I don’t want to let these guys down. They deserve it.”
In the second 20-minute frame, the Scarlet Knights began to hedge on all screens set for Pickett, forcing the All-American candidate to dish it off in the face of lockdown double-team looks.
From there, Shrewsberry’s attack went stagnant, as Pickett, a typical 18.5-points-per-game scorer, failed to even attempt a shot across the entire second half.
When the Nittany Lions became one-dimensional without reliance on the three-pointer or Pickett, they moved away from their consistent, pass-first mentality driven by selflessness.
In the midst of surrendering a one-time 19-point edge into a one-score defeat, Shrewsberry came to the realization that his squad needs to permanently cater to its strengths, rather than settling into the adjustments of opponents.
“We have to get back to moving the ball better,” Shrewsberry said. “We haven’t moved the ball very well the last few games. Our assist numbers have been down. They haven’t been attacking, and we haven’t been moving it [or using] extra passes.”
While it’s well documented that the Nittany Lions connected on only one field goal in the game’s final 13:23 of action, nobody is more aware or feels more responsible for the slew of shortcomings than Shrewsberry.
Between substitution head-scratchers, highlighted by going to an all-guard lineup with 3:38 remaining while holding a four-point lead, and poor responsiveness to in-game alterations, Shrewsberry commitment to not letting mistakes become a reoccurrence is evident.
“We need to look and see what we can do better and how we can be better, and I thought I did that,” Shrewsberry said. “I had time last night to really go back and watch it, [to] come up with a plan for if this happens again, this is how we’re going to attack it… And then relay that to our guys, so they have the confidence in what we’re going to do in this next moment.”
By immediately showing accountability, Shrewsberry’s commendable mindset has since trickled down to several of his roster’s most vital commodities, who also struggled against the Scarlet Knights.
Seth Lundy shot just 1-for-16 from the field, with his lone conversion resulting in a transition dunk early in the second half. Moreover, usual deep-threat Andrew Funk took just three triples in the second half, connecting on only one.
Both weapons, who typically combine for 26.1 points per game and nearly 36% of the Nittany Lions’ total production, garnered just 10 total points on Sunday. Directly after the pair of uncharacteristic showings, the duo didn’t hang their heads, but instead, channeled Shrewsberry’s mindset by going to work.
“You go throughout the day today, and you look [around], Seth [Lundy] was up here shooting late last night,” Shrewsberry said. “He was back this morning. [Andrew] Funk was in the gym earlier. Different guys are here, they’re back, they’re working… There’s no quit in this group.”
Before Sunday’s outcome, the Nittany Lions presented a strong case to make its first entrance into the NCAA Tournament’s 68-team field since 2011. But after suffering its second in-conference series sweep of the campaign, with the first coming in 0-2 fashion to Wisconsin, the inside track to reaching the postseason isn’t as direct.
Although it’s easy to be critical of Shrewsberry for not snagging his squad’s second-to-last home outing entering March, it’s far from the end of the road for Penn State. With two regular season matchups and an opportunity to bolster its resume in the Big Ten Tournament, Shrewsberry knows the season is far from over — no matter how hard he took Sunday’s loss postgame.
“Our season’s not over, and I said it yesterday,” Shrewsberry said. “… So, we’re back. We’re ready for what’s next. I’m ready for what’s next.”
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