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‘We’re In A Rut’: Penn State Hoops Takes Responsibility For Skid

At first, a loss to No. 12 Texas A&M didn’t seem so bad for Penn State men’s basketball.

A program trying to claw its way back into national recognition losing a close game to a ranked opponent at the ESPN Events Invitational wasn’t the end of the world. But then came losses to Butler, VCU, and now Bucknell. A four-game win streak to start of the season for Penn State quickly flipped to a four-game losing streak. Now, the Nittany Lions are trying to remember how to win.

The loss against the Bison, which was possibly one of the worst in several decades for the Nittany Lions, stung. Even when the game’s winner was decided, Bucknell’s Noah Williamson slammed home one last dunk to close the 76-67 upset.

From start to finish, Penn State didn’t play well enough. But to their credit, head coach Mike Rhoades and senior Puff Johnson owned up to their faults as soon as they had the chance.

“You have to go through failure before you have success and that’s what we’re dealing with right now,” Rhoades said postgame. “And no excuses. We have to be better. It’s on me. It’s on me to help these guys be better.”

Rhoades aptly described Penn State’s four-game skid as a “rut.” There’s no better word for it. How else do you describe a four-game span that takes a team from consideration as a top-25 program to an even record with several bad losses to boot?

Penn State’s worst enemy right now, as Rhoades and Johnson both addressed, isn’t Bucknell. It isn’t even Maryland or Ohio State, the Nittany Lions’ two upcoming opponents over the next week. Penn State’s worst enemy is nobody but itself. It’s the coaches in their offices and the players in the locker rooms. It might even be the guy who wipes the floor during the game. Penn State is losing the mental battle raging inside its collective mind.

“It’s just not good enough,” Rhoades said about his team’s energy. “Some of it is going through adversity. And everyone deals with it differently, but we have to attack it and we have to be together. And I just think guys are getting frustrated at their own games and it’s affecting other things.”

But now, at least after the Bucknell game, the theme is frustration and the desire to get back on top. It’s the desire to put together a strong effort in practice to prepare for the start of Big Ten play. Penn State needs to push itself, starting from the top down. Luckily for the program, it seems to already have that fire inside.

“That falls on my shoulders as a leader, as a captain, and as a senior on this team. I have to make sure that we’re all engaged and all ready to go,” Johnson said.

With four days before its battle with Maryland, Rhoades said he needs his team to learn from its losses. The teams only become more difficult from this point forward, and the team will need to be prepared.

“The No. 1 thing when you have failures is to own it, is to understand it, learn from it, so it makes you better,” Rhoades said. “We’re not doing that well enough right now. And that’s on me. No excuses.”

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About the Author

Joe Lister

Joe is a junior journalism major at Penn State and an associate editor at Onward State. He covers Penn State football and enjoys yelling on Twitter about Philadelphia/Penn State sports. He also listens to Mac Miller more than you. If you want to find him, Joe's usually watching soccer with his shirt off or at the gym with his shirt on. Please send all positive affirmations and/or hate mail toward him on Twitter (iamjoelister) or via email ([email protected]).

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