By Jon Moffett
Jerry Slocum is by no means a moral victory kind of guy.
But even he can find the good things even in tough losses. One of those things has been the effort by the Penguins in recent games. And while the veteran coach knows effort doesn’t win games by itself, it’s a crucial part of putting wins together.
“I thought we played extremely hard last week,” Slocum said of a 61-51 loss to Cleveland State. “I thought our kids were prepared and they really worked their tails off. If you make a couple of shots here or there, it’s a different outcome.”
The Penguins are at a big of a crossroads. Their record (7-10) isn’t bad. Their Horizon League conference record (1-6) is, however.
But Slocum said a few plays in a few key games could have the record looking a little bit better.
“As I told them, if we can get them to play that hard every night for the rest of the way, we will be very happy with the results that come the rest of the way,” he said.
But there is good news and bad news for Slocum. The good news is the Penguins showed solid effort in the month off from classes the team had for its winter break. The bad news is class is back in session.
Now in addition to having to deal with practice and games, the Penguins are back to the balancing act of classes, homework and social lives. But Slocum said there shouldn’t be much of a change in the way the team approaches practices and games.
“I don’t know [how classes will affect the effort level]. That’s a good question,” he said. “Obviously, over the course of a basketball season you really have to deal with three different kind of interruptions in your year.
“You have all of first semester. And then you go into that spell where you don’t have any classes and you’re here all by yourself and going through that,” he added. “And now you’re jumping back into classes. To be honest wit you, I think our kids are kind of excited about classes starting and getting their routines together again and getting back into seeing other guys other than themselves.”
While the desire to return to classes is up for debate, the message about effort is not.
Junior guard Devonte Maymon agreed with his coach about the effort being key. He also said the team needs to do a better job from the free-throw line and capitalize on free-point situations.
As a team, the Penguins shoot 63 percent from the line. Slocum and Maymon both said that’s not even close to being enough.
Maymon said the team now takes fouls in scrimmages as they would in the game, going to the line instead of taking the ball out.