* Forward Drew Crawford, who sat out the last 12 minutes of the 'Cats overtime loss to Michigan on Tuesday night, appears good-to-go for their Saturday visit to Penn State. "The trainer told me he was fine," said his coach, Bill Carmody. "He'll be a little sore, but when he loosens it up, he'll be OK."
"It's feeling better. But it's one of those things that it takes a little bit of rest to get better," Crawford himself said on Thursday afternoon. "It's a little sore right now. But it should be good in a couple of days."
* Crawford came up with the injury early in the Wolverine game when he collided with their Evan Smotrycz. "I was cutting through the lane there, and kind of went (Smotrycz's) knee to (his right) quad," he recounted. "His knee hit my quad and I got a dead leg. It hurt a little bit when it happened, and it continued to get worse throughout the game. It stiffened up and I wasn't able to move real well. Being on the court, I was slow. I couldn't contribute as much as I would have liked to. It was slowing me down."
* 'Cat star John Shurna, surprisingly enough, also didn't contribute much in that game's last 25 minutes, scoring just four points in the second half and overtime. That led Carmody to later opine that he appeared "Reluctant to do anything. He had some pretty good looks and he passed them up to go to the next thing, the next thing. It was a day he had to take over, I thought."
So, on Thursday, we wondered if Carmody had talked to Shurna about that.
"No, because I've had that discussion with him for two years now. He knows how I feel, so we didn't have any discussion about it. No."
"I don't know. I think maybe I was trying to let the game come to me a little more than I should have," Shurna himself said when asked about his coach's Tuesday night comment. "But you can't look in the past too much. You've got to learn from it and get ready for Penn State."
* Shurna, of course, has not only played big minutes while carrying the 'Cats through much of this season. He was also, more recently, the center of much attention as he approached and then topped his school's career scoring record. Could all of that effort and hoopla left him less-than fully energized against the Wolverines? "He's a little worn out, I think. He looked a little tired to me," said Carmody.
"I've been trying to treat every game as a normal game," Shurna himself said when asked if recent events had tired him. "So, no. I was just going out there and trying to play my game and trying to help the team win."
* That Tuesday evening, when his team faced Michigan, Welsh-Ryan was a hot house filled with folks who witnessed an affair mottled with roiling emotions. This was a game the 'Cats desperately wanted to gild the resume that will be studied by the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee, which is why the defeat was so enervating for them. "Yeah. It definitely was real emotional. It was a tough loss to handle, especially right after the game," admitted Crawford. "But like all losses, we have to move on from it. There's nothing we can do about it now."
"Are we emotionally spent, deflated? I don't know about that," said Carmody. "We've had a few of those games this year and we seemed to be OK afterward. So I'm not that worried (about that). I just worry about our overall play. I certainly care about how they feel, their mindset, keeping them up and stuff. But we lost a few games earlier in the year there, and we came back."
* There is a very simple reason for them not be deflated now and to mount one more comeback. They have three regular season games and their conference tourney yet remaining, which is opportunity enough to make an impression on that Selection Committee. "That's basically what we said (in the locker room after the Michigan loss). 'We still have a great chance here,'" said Crawford. "It was a tough game, one that we could have won. We've just to be able to move on from in and continue to play with energy and play with heart. We're a hungry team. We've just got to finish strong now."
* The only fan who doesn't know the 'Cats have never appeared in the NCAA tourney is an alien who just dropped in from some distant planet. So, always, they are surrounded by that reality and by the chatter that accompanies it and by the weight that this history delivers. Still, said Carmody, "I don't feel, like I said the other night, the seniors, they've won 17 and 20 and 20 (in their three previous seasons at the school). So they know history, they know what's come before them, and they feel part of that, the thread that binds. But they also know they've done pretty well here. That link isn't on them like some miasma hanging over their head or something like that."
But, Crawford would most-honestly add, "Right now, we're focusing on Penn State, although the tournament looms in the back of our head a little bit, I think. We don't talk about it a whole lot. But in the back of our heads we know what the implications of each game are. We go out knowing each game is extremely important. It would be an historical thing. It would mean a lot to the school and the program. So it's our goal."
* Still, in the present, the primary concern is now the Big Ten cellar-dwelling Nittany Lions, whom the 'Cats beat by a dozen way back on Jan. 1. That suggests this could be pleasant visit for them, but don't be fooled. This is one of those ever-dangerous trap games and here's why. Penn State, in conference, is 0-8 on the road, but 4-3 at home. Penn State, at home, has defeated Purdue by 20 and Illinois by two and Nebraska by 16 and Iowa by five. Penn State, in its last four home games, has held opponents to an average of just 54.8 points while limiting them to 37.6 percent shooting overall and 30.4 percent shooting on their threes. Penn State, on the road, is averaging 55 ppg, but at home that number jumps to 67.5, and Penn State, on the road, is shooting 35 percent, but at home that number jumps to 42. "So," said Carmody, "they've got that good feeling, or whatever it is, when we talk about home-court advantage. They definitely play at a higher level at home."
* There is one more thing as well. The 'Cats last won at Penn State on Feb. 16, 2002.
* So much, then, is now in play for the 'Cats, everything from those ever-popular bracketologists to this road trip to a playpen that has been unkind to them. But, in the end, their reality is simply that one defined by Crawford when he said, "The only thing we can do now is go out and try to win every game. That's the only thing we can control, so that's what we want to do. Win every game."