Penn State finally got into the B1G win column on Saturday afternoon with a 79-51 demolition of Rutgers, thanks in large part to a blistering, 41-point first half that saw the Nittany Lions hit seven of their 12 three-point attempts and commit just three turnovers. D.J. Newbill and Brandon Taylor combined for 25 in that stanza and after an opening which saw the Scarlet Knights possess a 15-14 lead, PSU went on an 18-5 run soon after to blow it open and never looked back.
Newbill finished with 23 points on 8-12 shooting in another fantastic display of offensive acumen, but it was his supporting cast that stole the show at the BJC. Taylor, who left the game midway through the second half with what appeared to be a lower leg injury, produced 16 points on 6-10 shooting, six rebounds and four assists. It would be a cruel twist of fate to lose Taylor immediately after his best game in recent memory during a crucial run of upcoming games. Geno Thorpe got his second consecutive start and probably earned a third after forcing a number of Rutgers turnovers, which aided immensely in the Lions' aims to control the tempo.
They had the Scarlet Knights bending to their will for nearly the entire half, finishing the first period at an astonishing 1.42 points per possession. The second half wasn't quite as explosive but with the game never in doubt, it didn't take much for Penn State to get on the board in the B1G with a convincing win.
Four Factors Analysis
Penn State had far and away their best offensive performance of the season, shooting a previously unheard of 10-20 from three-point land (7-12 in the first half). The defensive key against Rutgers coming into the game was to limit their easy looks and free throw attempts, and the Lions' ability to keep them off the offensive glass and force turnovers took care of that issue. PSU's ball movement was excellent today - their 18 assists indicate how fluid and unselfish the attack was today.
Player of the Game - D.J. Newbill
Taylor, Thorpe, and Shep Garner each had really nice bounce-back games, but Newbill is the straw that stirs the drink and another incredibly efficient performance against the one of the conference's better defensive teams earns him PotG honors. The senior moved into seventh all-time on Penn State's career scoring charts today, surpassing Tim Frazier's mark of 1,543 points.
- Australian for Buckets - Devin Foster continues to give Pat Chambers another reliable option at guard in the absence of the still-suspended John Johnson. The JuCo transfer added four points and two rebounds in around 15 minutes of action, though he did finally miss his first-ever shot as a Nittany Lion on a three-point attempt.
- Yeah, Boy - Flavor Flav's cousin had his first good game since the trip to Madison to open conference play nearly a month ago, posting 13 points (5-8 shooting) and four dimes. If Garner, Taylor and Thorpe can continue to perform like they did today, Penn State will be a much tougher out in the B1G.
- Mack and Jack Attack, Kinda Whack - Rutgers' leading duo took it upon themselves to shoulder the load today, but only Kadeem Jack had any semblance of success against Penn State's defense. With starting big man Junior Etou left in Piscataway for a violation of team rules, the Knights had no easy looks all game. Jack hit a number of impressive jumpers, but otherwise it was much of the usual output for Eddie Jordan's bunch.
- "We played Penn State basketball for 40 minutes, which we haven't done this year before today." - D.J. Newbill
- "I'm happy for Pat to get a win in the conference." - Hatin'-ass Eddie Jordan
- "I don't have an official update, I know he banged knees." - Pat Chambers on Brandon Taylor. He added they'll have doctors check on him very soon.
- "D.J. Newbill went 8-for-12, can you get any more efficient?" - Chambers. I mean, yeah, you can get more efficient, but we hear you.
Penn State will have another opportunity to snatch a conference win at home against Minnesota on Wednesday night. The Gophers are themselves 1-6 (as of posting) in the B1G, though Rich Pitino's preferred hectic tempo presents more of a logistical challenge than the offensively-deficient Knights did this afternoon. More on Goldy this week. In the meantime, enjoy the victory. You earned it.