Penn State news by
Penn State's student blog



Penn State Hoops’ Mentality Critical Amid Winning Stretch

It wasn’t long ago that Penn State men’s basketball had a losing record.

After the Nittany Lions’ latest win, this time over Iowa, they’ve brought themselves from a losing record to a winning one within five days. After a brutal loss against Minnesota at home, Penn State seems to have found itself mentally and put together three straight wins as the team’s picked up steam through a difficult Big Ten stretch.

Now, Penn State has its first winning record in nearly a month. The last time the Nittany Lions had more wins than losses was after a Palestra win over Michigan, but after losses to Northwestern and Purdue, they’ve been scrambling to get back into the positive.

Tough losses against good teams turned into poor losses against bad teams. A tough loss against Minnesota, in which the Nittany Lions struggled to show any heart, may turn out to be one of the games that keeps Penn State out of NCAA Tournament contention.

The Minnesota loss seems to have been a turning point for Penn State. Three games later, the Nittany Lions took themselves from a nine-win team to a 12-win team, firmly planted in the middle of the Big Ten with a 6-6 record.

“With the Minnesota game, we just let our foot off the gas, and we just gave up like the game was over,” senior guard Ace Baldwin Jr. said after the Iowa win. “This game, we just kept playing.”

The victory over Iowa did need Penn State to demonstrate some of the grit it lacked against Minnesota. While the Nittany Lions controlled Iowa for most of the game, the Hawkeyes had a seven-point lead with just over eight minutes left in the game.

For a moment, the Iowa matchup looked reminiscent of the Minnesota loss. Penn State was the better team, but its lead was slipping away due to inconsistent play in the second half. Head coach Mike Rhoades repeated all season that he didn’t think his team was good enough to play a full 40 minutes of basketball, and that seemed to be the struggle for the Nittany Lions Thursday night.

But the team turned itself around. Rhoades said when he reminded the team about the Minnesota loss, it managed to pull itself out of a slump and go on an 11-0 run. It demonstrated the mental toughness it was clearly lacking against the Golden Gophers and applied it to the Hawkeyes.

“…At the one timeout, I was like, ‘Are we going to go through this again? Is this how it is every time we play at home? Come on. Just stick together everyone,'” Rhoades said. “‘Take a deep breath, clear your mind here, and now let’s get back to doing what we’re capable of doing.'”

The Nittany Lions did just that. One jump shot from Qudus Wahab turned into back-to-back three-pointers from Zach Hicks and Baldwin. Soon after, the Nittany Lions returned to the driver’s seat.

Finally, it seems Penn State has learned some difficult lessons. A bad loss against Bucknell, another game that could keep Penn State from March Madness, taught it about losing to poor-performing teams. A loss to Purdue put the Nittany Lions in their place as the runt of the Big Ten litter, and the Minnesota loss taught them how to overcome adversity, even if the Nittany Lions had to learn that the hard way.

“As a coach, you want to pride your team on always getting better as the year goes on,” Rhoades said. “You win a couple in a row — that gives you confidence that you can play with anybody. But you have to hold yourself to that standard. You have to do it every day.”

The question now isn’t about if the Nittany Lions are getting better, it’s about how much better they’re getting.

Whether it wants to or not, Penn State will soon figure out how far its newly learned mental toughness can take it. Its next two opponents, Northwestern and Michigan State, both beat Penn State earlier in the season. After Michigan State comes No. 10 Illinois, just to tack on another challenge. If Rhoades wants to know if his team has actually improved, three games against three teams rated above Penn State in its own conference should do the job.

Your ad blocker is on.

Please choose an option below.

Sign up for our e-mail newsletter:
Support quality journalism:
Purchase a Subscription!

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]).

[Photo Story] Penn State Basketball Returns To Rec Hall

Our photographers were on hand to capture the sights of Penn State basketball’s return to Rec Hall.

A Cathedral Is Useless If You Never Hold Mass: Penn State Basketball Should Permanently Return To Rec Hall

Rec Hall is an intimidating place to play basketball and the Bryce Jordan Center simply is not. Why not make the switch?

‘My Biggest Inspiration’: Hana Romanik Supporting Mother’s Cancer Research Work From THON 2024

“I’ve just been super interested ever since that first year trying to grow my personal THON story, get more connections to it, help as many people as I can, and be that person [my mom] is for other people.”

Follow on Another Platform