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Penn State Overcomes Sloppy Start Against Rutgers to Win 60-47

Penn State opened the game by making zero field goals in the first six minutes of the game. Second half was a different story.

NCAA Basketball: Penn State at Rutgers Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Rutgers is, as I said on Friday, not a particularly good team. But at this rate, neither is Penn State. This was most apparent in the first six minutes of the game, when the Nittany Lions failed to make a single field goal (starting 0-10 from the field), only scoring via free throws. Lucky for them, Rutgers wasn’t too preoccupied with building a Northwesternesque lead during that drought, so the game wasn’t completely out of hand by the time the Lions decided to make their first field goal.

Penn State started to find their stroke over the next ten minutes, and the litany of mistakes on the Scarlet Knights’ end eventually caught up to them and gave the lead to a team that didn’t really seem too willing to take it. Teams traded the lead for the rest of the half, and a game that would have been over by halftime against a better team luckily closed out as a four-point lead for Penn State, even though the Lions shot 27% in the half.

The Lions started the second half the same way they started the first, by promptly committing a turnover. After they finally settled down, again, Penn State started to slowly take control of the game. They started making some shots while Rutgers did not, and a four point lead quickly stretched to six, then 10, then 15, and before you knew it the Lions were the ones with the insurmountable lead this time around. The second half Lions showed up yet again, and this time it was to put away a team they were supposed to take care of. Credit Rutgers for fighting to whittle the deficit down some, but when you’re shooting worse than the team shooting terribly, you give yourself little chance to win the game. Penn State found this out the hard way four days ago.

Four Factors Analysis

Four Factors

Team Total Possessions PPP eFG% OReb% TO% FT Rate
Team Total Possessions PPP eFG% OReb% TO% FT Rate
Penn State 71 1.07 50.0% 35.5% 19.7% 47.3%
Nebraska - 0.94 39.5% 34.0% 11.3% 13.2%

Yes, this was an ugly game. If I showed you thsese stats without the score, you’d never guess the Nittany Lions won by double digits. Penn State did not have a sizable advantage anywhere, going well under 1 PPP, not really out gaining Rutgers on the glass, and only doing marginally better than Rutgers in the free throw department. Then again, that’s what happens when the opponent is that much worse shooting the ball than Penn State.

Player of the Game: Payton Banks - 20 points, 2 rebounds, 1 steal

Banks slid into the starting lineup to spell an ill Shep Garner, and he had himself a game. He matched his career high 5 three-pointers made in this game, and was seemingly always there to put a stop to any chance of a Rutgers comeback. Honorable mentions go to Tony Carr and Julian Moore, who also had themselves a good game in elevated duty.

Random Observations

  1. Follow the football formula. - It’s clear that these Nittany Lions are a second half team. Even against Northwestern and Pitt, they were able to play much better in the second half than the first. Like the football team, these Nittany Lions just need to survive the first half moving forward and make it a game in the second half.
  2. Julian Moore was not a liability. - Mike Watkins had the stomach bug (he and Garner traveled separately to avoid spreading the bug). Moore spent an extended amount of minutes on the floor as a result, and he was not a liability at all. If he can keep this up we might have a semblance of a frountcourt moving forward.
  3. Penn State avoids 0-6. - The demons have been following Chambers in his entire tenure, having started his first four seasons 0-6 or worse in Big Ten play. Even last season he still started 0-2 before before beating Minnesota. For the first time in his tenure, Chambers got a Big Ten win before the third game of the season. The question now is, can he start better than 1-4?
  4. Sometimes slow is good. - Once the Nittany Lions built their sizable lead, with about 8 minutes left in the game, it became clear that Pat Chambers instructed his team to simply run out the clock. Penn State played at half the pace they’d played up to that point, and best as they tried, Rutgers was still unable to take advantage. It’s encouraging to see that Chambers will slow down the game if need be.

Looking Ahead

Penn State travels to Ann Arbor to take on Michigan on Wednesday, January 4th. Game’s at 8:30 PM EST on BTN. While I don’t expect a win, let’s hope for a good performance.