Micah Shrewsberry had a lot to feel good about after Penn State’s game against LSU Friday night.
In the first of two Emerald Coast Classic games, his Nittany Lions– picked to finish between 12th and 13th of 14 teams in the Big Ten preseason poll– took on an NCAA tournament hopeful out of the SEC that came in averaging 85.4 points a game.
Not only did Penn State hang in there, it almost won, having a lead in the final minute of regulation before falling in overtime.
Not bad for a team that lost by 25 to UMass 11 days before.
Shrewsberry had to have been proud of his team, especially defensively, where Penn State held LSU to 17 points below its scoring average in a 45-minute game. But he didn’t show it too much after the game.
Some other coaches in the same situation would have dedicated their time with the press to praising their team’s toughness, togetherness, unselfishness and refusal to quit. That wasn’t the theme of Shrewsberry’s talk. Early in his press conference, Shrewsberry abjured moral victories, and he doubled down on that stance near the end.
“We always believe that we can win,” Shrewsberry said. “We come with a game plan that we’re going to win. We come with a defensive mindset that we’re going to win, and we’re not satisfied with this.”
“I don’t care about outside expectations. I don’t care about anybody telling me where we’re going to finish in the Big Ten.”
It wasn’t that Shrewsberry didn’t find any positives. Against an explosive offense, Shrewsberry felt his team played defense at a Big Ten worthy level.
“We control our own destiny,” he said, “and if we defend like this, if we have this toughness, this mindset, this idea, we’ll get better offensively, but if we defend like this, we’ll give ourselves a chance.
“We’re going to play physical, Big Ten basketball. That’s what the people at the Bryce Jordan Center are going to see. That’s what the people when we go on the road are going to see. I told our guys, ‘get rested, and let’s go do it tomorrow night.’
Now that Penn State has proven that it can make a good SEC team sweat, Shrewsberry will have– if possible– even less tolerance for moral victories. With the Big Ten slate certain to bring some close losses, Shrewsberry will not accept a three-point loss to Purdue or falling to Michigan State on a buzzer beater.
With a winnable game against 1-5 Oregon State today at 4, Shrewsberry stresses the need for Penn State to keep the same energy regardless of the competition.
“The cat’s out of the bag,” he said. “I’ve seen it. I’ve seen what they can do against a team of this caliber, against a team with these athletes. I’ve seen it. Now don’t take a step back when we’re not playing something like (LSU). This needs to be an every night thing, and I think we have some everyday guys in our locker room that are going to bring it that way.”