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Penn State Basketball: Nittany Lions Looking to Find Mojo in Final Games

by on March 03, 2020 12:20 PM

With at least three games remaining before Penn State's first NCAA Tournament trip in a decade, there are a lot of different things at stake. For one, there's Big Ten Tournament seeding to consider, the Nittany Lions trying to pick up as many byes as possible.

And there's also that very outside shot at getting back into the Big Ten Title hunt.

Oh, and don't forget NCAA Tournament seeding as well, a win over the likes of Michigan State on Tuesday night as well as a run in the Big Ten Tournament could go a long way towards locking up a higher quality seed.

But in truth most bracket experts have already penned in the Nittany Lions as a No. 4 or No. 5 seed with an expectation for how these final three games will almost certainly go. Losing to a rising Michigan State team isn't necessarily a surprise in that equation and a loss that wouldn't necessarily change the overall outlook of Penn State's season.

The biggest objective? Getting the mojo back.

"My message to the guys yesterday was again trying to put your walls up," Penn State coach Pat Chambers said on Monday. "Don't worry about the what ifs, you can't win the moment, unless you're in the moment. I mean I'm a normal broken record but that's what I've been saying, and we have to continue to get better. And we can get better. You go back to that eight game winning streak. We were playing on a really high level. Can we get to that level again and a little bit better, and take the next step and punch through that that's the goal in practice today that's the goal tomorrow night that that's the most important thing to me heading into postseason.

"I woke up on Sunday thinking, our guys believe that we can win every game. I don't know if that was the case over the last eight years.And they're that dejected in the locker room after games.That is progress. That is progress man, especially from the leader. Come on, let's keep it transparent again, you know some games [in the past] you look at your team you're like well, let's hang on here. Now, these guys truly believe and are invested that they can win every game that they step on the floor. That's outstanding."

It's no secret that much of that swagger begins with the confidence and health of sophomore guard Myreon Jones. The Nittany Lions' most efficient scorer and one of Penn State's most diverse players, Jones knocked some of the rust off in a loss to Iowa over the weekend. Now he'll look to find his stroke against Michigan State on Tuesday night, a team he went six-for-eight on from beyond the arc. If Jones can get his shot back after six games out of the rotation, a lot of other things will start to fall into place.

But first things first, Jones has to find his legs.

"It's going to be really important heading down the stretch here," Chambers said of Jones getting back into the swing of things. "I think Myles Dread has to continue to shoot. Seth [Lundy] is making his shots I mean, maybe some tough ones he took but still good ones. But MJ needs to believe that we believe in him. And if he has an open one he's got a stick. And I think he knows that we talked yesterday after film...But, you know, he'll catch up. It's gonna take a little while but he'll catch up."

The sooner Jones is truly back the better, and the sooner Penn State finds its scoring touch after a handful of recent sluggish second half performances, the sooner the Nittany Lions will find the firepower that turned them from a tournament hopeful into a tournament threat. At its best Penn State looks a Sweet 16 team, at its worst, a second round hopeful.

It'll be up to the Nittany Lions to decide which one they want to be, and nothing all that more complicated than making shots to make the decision all the easier.



Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for StateCollege.com. He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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