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‘Damn Right, I Do’: Penn State HC Mike Rhoades Feels Rec Hall Win Could Move Program Forward

Photo by Penn State Athletics

Penn State basketball will almost certainly never turn into what the Pittsburgh Steelers were in the 1970s.

That was one of the greatest dynasties in the history of sports.

But here’s one thing PSU hoops and the “Amazing Steelers” could have in common.

The Steelers dynasty had a clear starting point, and it was the “Immaculate Reception,” a once-in-a-hindered-lifetimes play made by, fittingly, Penn Stater Franco Harris. That play gave the Steelers their first playoff win, and the franchises ended up winning four Super Bowls in six years. Now, Penn State’s never going to win four national championships in six years— nor is any other program with the randomness of the NCAA Tournament. But first-year coach Mike Rhoades would like to have this program be one that makes it to the Big Dance, oh, more than once a decade.

Maybe Wednesday’s “Return to Rec” was the start of that.

Penn State’s 90-89 upset of No. 12 Illinois in Rec Hall didn’t have a singular legendary moment like Harris’ catch.

But coming back from being down seven with 37 seconds left is pretty “immaculate.”

In his postgame presser, Rhoades was asked if he believed a win like this could advance the program.

“You’re dame right, I do,” he said.

And why is that?

“I’m a huge, huge believer in young people, when they come together, when they stick together, when they go through stuff together,” Rhoades said. It’s amazing what they can accomplish and what they can believe and how they believe in each other. Maybe tonight was that moment.

Rhoades pointed out that Penn State’s had “some other ones” throughout this season, and he’s right.

Illinois wasn’t the first top 15 team Penn State beat this year.

PSU upset No. 11 Wisconsin last month at the Bryce Jordan Center, and like with Rec Hall, the fans stormed the court.

But as Penn State’s 13-14 overall record indicates, the season has been bumpy at times.

“It’s never easy,” Rhoades said. “It’s a journey. There’s highs and there’s lows. There’s tough moments, there’s tough decisions. But we’re here for them. We’re here to build a basketball team for 18-to-23 year olds, and watch them turn into something. Maybe today’s a moment that gives us a kickstarts or pushes us or propels us. That’d be cool.”

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