‘We’re Failures From This Week If We Don’t Get Better From It’: Penn State Hoops Aiming For Improvement Amid Three-Game Skid
After a fantastic 4-0 start for Penn State men’s basketball, reality set in over Thanksgiving break amid three consecutive losses in the ESPN Events Invitational.
It was a frustrating road trip for Mike Rhoades’s squad that fell to No. 12 Texas A&M, Butler, and Rhoades’ former team VCU — all in four days time. Games one and two were battles against the Aggies and Bulldogs that Penn State couldn’t get the lead back late in the game despite keeping it close, while the matchup against VCU seemed like the team was already beaten after losing two straight.
Rhoades highlighted the disappointment that came from the tournament during his media availability Tuesday afternoon.
“I want to win every game we tried to play, and realistically, when you play a really good tournament like that, you get exposed quickly,” Rhoades said. “When you lose three in a row, you find out what you’re really about. That’s what we’re going to find out today in practice, what we’re really about. When you play really good teams, it exposes you one way or the other. We’re failures from this week if we don’t get better from it. We got to get better from it.”
The main issue the Nittany Lions faced was their defense. The defense was the downfall in all three games of the tournament as Penn State gave up an average of 87.6 points a game while only scoring 76.3 a game.
Rhoades knows his team didn’t perform the way it should’ve on defense and plans to focus on that side of the ball in the future.
“We didn’t guard the ball,” he said “We had a lot of deflections, we had some guys really flying around, but our discipline and guarding our discipline guarding the ball really let us down… I’m disappointed that we got exposed this much, and we didn’t stick to the foundation of our defense.”
While defensive adjustments can be made, the team may be in need of a spark amid its skid. Rhoades has yet to adjust the starting lineup through seven outings, and a change to the starting five could be the difference between wins and losses.
A sturdy bencher producer, Puff Johnson has shined for the Nittany Lions since returning from injury. He scored 15 points against Texas A&M and is wavering 7.2 points through five games. He’s become a reliable option for a Nittany Lions team that can score from almost anywhere on the floor.
While Rhoades didn’t confirm a change to the starting lineup, the head coach said his player’s next few practices will heavily influence what the lineup looks like going forward.
“They have to earn their minutes in practice. There’s some guys that have just got to get more reps than others,” Rhoades said. “I always say everything’s on the table. We’re not changing our makeup or foundation. But you know, sometimes you got to shake some things up.”
The team, with Rhoades, is ready to return with increased strength and spirit in its next matchup against Bucknell and implement the lessons learned into its future play.
“Going down to Orlando, we were a confident group, and the confidence is still high, but if you get knocked down, it’s just a matter of how you’re going to respond,” Johnson said. “My dad, he’s always taught me that 99% of things in life you can’t control, but the 1% is how you respond to it. So that’s what we’ve got to do as a group.”
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