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Penn State Hoops Turns To Indiana After Impressive Zach Hicks Performance

Will Tschetter started at the video board in Minneapolis, Minnesota, not allowed to step foot on a basketball court for the remainder of his season.

Tschetter hadn’t committed a violent crime or foul of any sort, he had simply committed his fifth foul in Michigan’s Big Ten Tournament loss against Penn State men’s basketball. For the last two minutes of his season, Tschetter was forced to watch from the sidelines as the Wolverines fell to the Nittany Lions. For a Michigan team suffering a disappointing season as the worst team in its conference, the mood was somber.

Down the sideline, it was a different story.

Penn State, the No. 11 seed in the Big Ten Tournament, was celebrating its first win of the tournament. For many players, along with head coach Mike Rhoades, it was the first time they had accomplished such a feat.

The Nittany Lions, who had won their second game in a row, were led by the predictably good performance of Ace Baldwin Jr. and the somewhat surprising showcase of Zach Hicks’ shooting ability. With the Wolverines dispatched, the Nittany Lions will turn their attention to Indiana, a team they’ve already beaten twice this season.

Hicks led the charge for the Nittany Lions throughout the day, scoring 20 points, 18 of which came from beyond the arc. For a player averaging below nine points per game, Hicks’ performance was crucial for Penn State’s survival. After the game, Rhoades said Hicks had a “neon green light.”

“I don’t think there have been many changes. Every shooter goes in a slump, and I feel like coach always tells me to shoot the ball with confidence,” Hicks said of his season progression postgame. “As a shooter, once you see that first one drop, it’s just like the basket gets super big.”

Earlier in the season, Rhoades repeatedly harped on a team that struggled to shoot across the entire court. He said his players weren’t getting up enough shots after practice and that with a lackadaisical approach, the Nittany Lions were struggling on the court.

Since the halfway point of the season, however, the Nittany Lions have turned a corner. The team is making more than a third of its shots from beyond the three-point arc and is hitting nearly half of its shots from the field.

Hicks’ progression from a struggling transfer shooter to a composed guard able to score 20 points when needed was a representation of the entire team on Wednesday night.

“It’s what we do. We shoot the ball when you’re open you work on it. If you want the neon green light like Zach, you better be in the gym all summer long,” Rhoades said. “We got 15 managers and five [graduate assistants], and their No. 1 job is to rebound for these guys. So there’s no excuse to get in the gym and work on your game.”

With Penn State’s first challenge moved aside, Rhoades will turn his attention to the Hoosiers. Penn State outscored Indiana 168-145 this season, and Rhoades said he expected for Indiana to alter its game plan for the Nittany Lions.

However, Rhoades also said not to expect many changes from Penn State.

“When you play a team multiple times, there are always changes, counters to counters to things you do. And all that is basketball and we’ll do some things differently as well,” Rhoades said. “I think our style of play at this time of the year really helps us because if you turn people over late in the year and you capitalize on it, it’s tough to change.”

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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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