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Penn State Basketball

‘Do Your Job’: Penn State HC Mike Rhoades Gives Thoughts on Officiating After Loss

Photo by Penn State Athletics

Penn State coach Mike Rhoades had a straightforward answer when asked whether he meant to get a technical foul in the second half of Wednesday’s loss to Northwestern at the Bryce Jordan Center.

“Hell no.”

To be clear, it was a polite “hell no,” not an angry one.

“No, I don’t want to get technicals,” he continued That’s how you let your team down.”

There are times when basketball coaches– whether they’d admit it or not– purposely get themselves “t’d up” to fire up their team and inspire it to better play. Rhoades said that wasn’t the case here, and evidence backs that up. Penn State was winning 55-47 at the time of the technical, which took place with 12:59 left in the game. With 9:18 left, Northwestern led, 62-55, and although Penn State hung in there until the end, it never regained the lead. 

Here’s how it all started. 

With Penn State a basket away from going up by double digits, Northwestern’s Boo Buie appeared to foul Penn State’s Qudus Wahab when trying to knock the ball out of his hands. 

The officials didn’t see it that way, and as a result, there was no foul but a Penn State turnover instead.

Rhoades’ disbelief and disapproval were obvious to everybody who was in the Bryce Jordan Center and paying attention to the action. 

It was also obvious to one of the referees, Nate Harris, who gave Rhoades the T. 

Buie hit both foul shots, cutting Penn State’s lead to six. By rule, Northwestern got the ball back after the technical. It promptly made it a one-possession game when Brooks Barnhizer made a layup, got fouled by Leo O’Boyle and converted the three-point play. A Matthew Nicholson dunk then made it 55-54, and Northwestern took the lead one possession later. Before the run was over, Northwestern led, 62-55. 

Rhoades knows his team wasn’t good enough in the second half, citing Penn State’s nine turnovers in the half as crucial and saying the product “wasn’t good enough.”

“You play good teams,” he said, “you can’t beat yourself.”

Whether or not the officiating was good enough is more subjective, but it should be noted that Northwestern coach Chris Collins received a technical in the first half. So there were times when each coach wasn’t pleased. 

Rhoades wasn’t afraid to speak his mind but paused for several seconds during his answer regarding the technical before doing so.

“I just don’t get it,” he said coming out of the pause. “I’ve been around for a lot of time. Obvious is obvious. I just don’t get it. I’ll just leave it at that.”

Rhoades went on.

“Everybody has a responsibility when you’re in a game,” Rhoades said. “Everybody. Coaches, people that are running the event, the referees. Everybody has a job to do. So do your job. That’s all I’m asking. It doesn’t have to be perfect. We’re all human, but obvious is obvious. I don’t have many technicals in my 28 years. I really don’t.”

It was Rhoades’ first technical this season and thus his first at Penn State and the first Kanye Clary had seen him get.

Clary, who continued his excellent season with a game-high 25 points, didn’t feel Rhoades technical created an obvious change to the feel of the game. 

“It’s basketball,” Clary said. “Refs called fouls throughout the game, so if it’s going to be a technical, then say any foul stops momentum, but at the end of the day, we just didn’t execute and just do the things we need to do to win.”

For Rhoades, Penn State needs to do a better job of responding when things aren’t going their way.

“There’s things we got to learn,” Rhoades said. “You got to be tougher. We’re not getting any calls, so we just got to be tougher. We can’t make excuses. Screw it. Find a way to finish anyway through contact. If they call it, they call it. If not, finish anyway. We’re inconsistent. We’re an inconsistent basketball team.”

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