For Penn State to get back in the win column Thursday against St. Francis Brooklyn, it had to iron out several issues both offensively and defensively — things that can’t possibly get fixed in a single game.
Luckily for Coach Micah Shrewsberry — after spending more than two decades on college sidelines — he’s been in this position before.
While the Nittany Lions have a long way to go to become a complete team, Shrewsberry is taking things one step at a time.
“You learn that winning’s hard, and you learn to celebrate every single time,” Shrewsberry said.
The blue and white showed improvement in its perimeter defense in its 74-59 defeat of the Terriers, holding St. Francis Brooklyn to 31.8% shooting from beyond the arc, but one big problem from its loss to UMass Monday resurfaced — Penn State's inability to hold on to the basketball.
After coughing up the ball 15 times against Minutemen, the Nittany Lions recorded 15 more turnovers Thursday — five greater than the maximum Shrewsberry was hoping for.
“We didn’t value the basketball. Our goal is 10 turnovers or less,” he said. “That’s the game right there, passing and catching. That’s where we need to continue to get better.”
“I thought we were just a little loose with it tonight. Luckily those balls are going out-of-bounds instead of to the other team.”
With a pair of forwards — fifth-year senior Greg Lee and junior Jevonnie Scott — sidelined thus far, Shrewsberry has been playing around with lineups to find the Nittany Lions’ best fit to close out games.
“We’re still feeling out the process. I haven’t been in the late game [situation] with these guys very much,” Shrewsberry said. “It’s game three for us, and we’re still learning each other. We’re still learning who our best lineups are to finish games.”
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Penn State defended the Bryce Jordan Center for the second time of the season on Thursday night.
Shrewsberry opted to start Jalanni White for the first time this season, and the fifth-year senior forward responded by playing with an early edge, grabbing a pair of offensive rebounds and putting them back for buckets.
“He did a lot of things that don’t show up on the stat sheet,” senior guard Sam Sessoms said. “I don’t know his wingspan, but it’s ridiculous. He had a lot of good rebounds, quick outlets to transition.”
Fifth-year senior forward John Harrar also took note of his frontcourt teammate’s tenacity Thursday.
“Jalanni’s out there stealing my offensive rebounds,” Harrar said. “I think it’s hard for other teams to keep [us] off the glass when we go big. I think that’s how we got our first couple points.”
Three games into the Shrewsberry era, Penn State has had its share of ups and downs.
The Nittany Lions’ 2-1 start to the season is perhaps made even more remarkable with the fact that they haven’t been at full strength yet — even on the practice court.
“We haven’t had everybody on our team at one practice at one time,” Shrewsberry said. “Nobody feels sorry for us. St. Francis didn’t feel sorry for us, Cornell doesn’t feel sorry [and the] Big Ten’s not going to feel sorry.”
Nonetheless, Shrewsberry is determined to push his squad through everything that gets thrown its way.
“We have to find a way to win anyway,” Shrewsberry said. “It is a great learning experience for the next time we get out there.”
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