Attention, Penn Staters! Now is not the time to throw in the towel, raise the white flag, or call it quits. Sure, the ball hasn’t quite bounced our way since the Nittany Lions hit their stride late last spring. Missed shots and poor foul-shooting have doomed us to date but every game has been winnable, including this weekend’s 89-78 loss to 9-1 N.C. State in the Boardwalk Classic.
Despite the 5-5 overall record, there are plenty of bright spots to behold. Pat Chambers has asked us to ‘keep climbing’ but I’m going to steal a page from James Franklin and ask you to ‘trust the process’ too. We all knew it wouldn’t be easy filling the shoes of Tony Carr and Shep Garner but at this stage, I’m going out on a limb to say we barely miss them. It’s been said we’re not as good as last year’s squad and in part that may be true, but at this stage a year ago we were struggling to stay afloat as well; even with the two mentioned leading the charge.
Ten games in we sit at .500 with very little wiggle-room to breathe but little-by-little, the three freshmen have proven they more than have what it takes to wipe away the shadows left behind. Rasir Bolton has scored buckets at a torrid pace and has taken the bull by the horns. Myles Dread and Myreon Jones have each shown flashes of brilliance and continue to get major minutes. Lamar Stevens fell into foul trouble on Saturday and without him being able to be himself down the stretch, it spelled defeat. Mike Watkins is playing his way back into shape but there have been no signs of any lingering impacts from his knee injury a year ago. Josh Reaves is as electric as ever and Jamari Wheeler is a ball-stealing machine.
The pieces are there to not only be as good as we were a year ago but even better, even if the record doesn’t reflect it yet. Now is NOT the time to throw in the towel, it’s time to keep the faith and rally. N.C. State is 9-1, Maryland and Indiana are both 9-2. We were in each of those games with a chance to win even as shots clanged off the rim and the three freshmen struggled to get acclimated to big-time college basketball. If there is any chance to make the big dance in March, those shots have to start making it into the hoop and the pieces have to come together, which I believe they will, just as they did in that monster win over Virginia Tech a few weeks ago.
Up next, Penn State travels to Pittsburgh on Wednesday to take on Duquesne as they continue their non-conference slate. They then head South for a quick turnaround to battle Alabama on Friday night in a game that will be televised live on the SEC Network for those of us that get it. They need us now more than ever so put down the white flag, throw those rally caps on, and cheer our Nittany Lions to victory!