Five Takeaways from Penn State Basketball's Narrow Loss to Miami

By Vincent Lungaro on December 2, 2021 at 10:23 am
Dec 1, 2021; University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; Miami Hurricanes forward Sam Waardenburg (21) controls the ball as Penn State Nittany Lions forward John Harrar (21) defends during the second half at the Bryce Jordan Center. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Penn State was unable to keep its recent success in Big Ten/ACC Challenges going Wednesday night, as the Nittany Lions dropped to 4-3 on the young season with a 63-58 home loss to Miami

Turnovers (which we'll get into) and a poor shooting night doomed Micah Shrewsberry's squad, which will have to regroup quickly ahead of Sunday's Big Ten opener against Ohio State. 

Let's dive into some takeaways:

Turnovers continue to be an issue

After a 14-turnover performance last night, the Nittany Lions have now have double-digit turnovers in all but one of their seven games this season. That is not a recipe for success for any team, let alone one with the deficiencies of Penn State. 

Ten first half turnovers allowed Miami to take control of the game, and after a bright start to the second half saw Penn State pull ahead 45-40, a string of sloppy possessions paved the way for a 13-3 Hurricanes run that really tipped the balance of the game in the road team's favor. 

"This game, our turnovers came from just not doing the little things like chinning the ball," senior forward John Harrar said. "Coach does five to 10 minutes of passing and dribbling drills to get open, get separation, pass fake, going around your man to make the clean pass. That's where his frustration comes, we drill it every day. We got to take care of the ball, value the ball."

more consistent preparation needed

This isn't necessarily an observation from me, it's something Micah Shrewsberry pointed out in his postgame presser. 

"There’s games where you see things coming. I don’t know what the outcome of this game is going to be, but I know what the outcome is going to be if we don’t prepare the right way," Shrewsberry said. "That trip to Florida took a lot out of us. We had an okay day on Monday, but a lot of that was that the guys are banged up. They played a lot of minutes. It was a hard trip. It was a hard trip getting home, but we didn’t prepare the right way on Tuesday and that’s where our growth needs to come from."

defense remains a strength

Despite his frustrations with the team's lack of success offensively, Shrewsberry was pleased again with Penn State's effort on the defensive end. 

Yes, Miami made some tough threes, but that was uncharacteristic for this Hurricanes squad. After Miami center Sam Waardenburg knocked down multiple 3-pointers in the first half, Shrewsberry said he didn't tell his players to change their approach. The Nittany Lions could live with Waardenburg getting hot from deep if it meant other players weren't getting shots up...and for most of the game that proved to be the case. 

Penn State controlled the paint for much of the night against a team that excels at getting to the basket. The Nittany Lions kept the Hurricanes to 20 points in the paint, well under their season average of 32.6.

Penn State also held Miami 10 points below its season-scoring average of 73.3. Holding a Power 5 program to 63 points is usually enough to get you a win. It all came back to turnovers and the inability to hit open shots costing the Nittany Lions.

"Sixty-three points has to be enough, right? We can’t turn the ball over 14 times," Shrewsberry said. "If we’re sitting here and the other team has 63 points, I’m feeling really good about how we’re guarding."

pace of play must improve

Penn State team's of recent years always wanted to play with pace. Force turnovers, get out in transition, get easy buckets. 

Shrewsberry's approach is a little different, it's clear he wants his team to be able to execute at a high level in the half-court. But he also wants his team playing faster after a string of games where the Nittany Lions have played a really slow tempo, struggling to get into their offense with any kind of speed. 

That doesn't just mean getting out in transition faster, though, it's how Penn State operates in those half-court sets. 

"We want to cut hard. We want to sprint off screens. We want to set screens. We want to move from one action to the next. That’s what I mean by pace and we’re not doing that," Shrewsberry said. "I’m not doing a very good job of coaching these guys offensively so that is something that we’ll get better at hopefully as the season goes on. I think we’ll get better and better and better so hopefully you see more pace. I know we’re going to work on it and we’re going to do it again. When we get back out there and practice, we’re going to do it. We’re going to push it down there as fast as we can and get there. We’re still going to take good shots. That’s what we’re going to do."

John harrar back to his best

Coming into Wednesday, Harrar had been held to under 10 points in three straight games and only reached double-digit rebounds in one of those games. 

The 6-foot-9 Wallingford, PA, native got back on track in the loss to the Hurricanes. Harrar led all scorers with 16 points, was a perfect 6-of-6 from the field and recorded a double-double by adding a game-high 12 rebounds. 

He remains the heart and soul of this Penn State team and they will need that level of production to continue as the season goes on. The Nittany Lions will also need his leadership as Penn State gets set to open up Big Ten action against Ohio State.