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Rutgers 70, Penn State 68: Lions Lay an Egg at Home Against Scarlet Knights

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A sloppy overall performance hurt Penn State’s bid to sweep Rutgers.

NCAA Basketball: Rutgers at Penn State Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off a three-overtime marathon of a loss on the road at Indiana, it seemed that a home game against a Rutgers team that Penn State had handled on the road earlier would be just what the doctor ordered for this young squad...if said doctor were Jack Kevorkian. Instead, the Lions came out flat, getting out-worked on the boards and lacking virtually any offensive cohesion and production outside of Shep Garner and his five three pointers, which were the saving grace of an otherwise putrid first half, offensively (the Lions shot 7-for-26 from the floor, good enough for 27%).

The second half saw Penn State whittle the deficit down to as little as four points but every time it seemed that PSU would finally take over, Rutgers’ Corey Sanders (who led all scorers with 25 points) would come up with a clutch shot to silence the crowd. The Scarlet Knights were able to push their lead to as high as 13 during the second half before PSU strung together a furious rally in the game’s final four minutes, culminated by a three-pointer by Payton Banks to cut the deficit to 64-58, which was immediately followed up with a steal and alley-oop pass from Banks to Mike Watkins to cut the deficit down to four.

The Lions were able to get the deficit down to 64-62 with about a minute and a half to play before Sanders hit a tough floater with a man in his face to put Rutgers back up four. PSU then followed up with a turnover, which turned into two more Rutgers points and a 68-62 deficit with 49 seconds left. PSU would not go away quietly though, as Mike Watkins would complete an and-one to make it 68-65 Rutgers and Josh Reaves would nail a three-pointer after Rutgers’ Mike Williams hit only one of his two free throws, to make it a one-point game, 69-68 with 11 seconds left. Rutgers once again would hit only one of its two free throw attempts, giving PSU a shot to send it to overtime with a basket, or even win it with a three-pointer. Tony Carr took the in-bounds pass at mid-court, spun his way towards the foul line and attempted a contested layup, which was off the mark as the red light went off, sealing Penn State’s fate as the first Big Ten road win ever for Rutgers.

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%

Rebounding (or lack thereof for PSU) tells the story of these four factors, as the Lions were out-rebounded 39-27 overall, 15-8 on the offensive glass. Had it not been for some atrocious free throw-shooting by Rutgers (13-for-23 for 56% compared to PSU’s 17-for-21 for 81%), PSU probably loses this game by seven or eight points.

Player of the Game - Shep Garner (24 points, 6-for-9 3PT Shooting, 3 assists)

SH3P was alive and well, particularly during the first half when he was the team’s lone reliable source on offense, nailing five of his six treys to keep PSU within striking distance at the half. He also was active on the defensive end, contributing to or even coming up with steals, himself.

Random Observations

  • Honoring a Fallen Lion - Today was the fourth annual “Team Ream” Day at the BJC. Team Ream is a non-profit organization started in honor of Brandon Ream, a former Nittany Lion football player and State College native who passed away from cancer in 2013. Team Ream benefits low-income families who are going through bouts with cancer or other serious illnesses. Part of the festivities at the BJC included a halftime BMX show and t-shirts for every fan in the stands (including a handful of red shirts for visiting Rutgers fans in attendance)
  • Foul trouble for Lamar Stevens - Lamar Stevens found himself in some serious foul trouble all game long, eventually fouling out with 7:35 remaining in the game. One can only wonder how much of a difference he would have made down the stretch, considering he had six points and seven rebounds upon fouling out.
  • How is the team’s psyche at this point? - Losing in three overtimes at Indiana was tough enough, especially considering there were a few instances where it seemed PSU had the game won, but to carry that hangover into today and lose a very winnable game at home to Rutgers has the potential to trigger a catastrophic losing skid. Unless they can upset Maryland in a few days, the Lions’ next realistic shot at wins appear to be road contests at Illinois (next Saturday) and Nebraska (Valentine’s Day). With a home rematch against Purdue, a road rematch against Minnesota, Ohio State at home, and a road trip to Iowa to close out the regular season, this PSU team is going to have to pull off a major upset in order to keep any postseason hopes alive.

Up Next

Penn State (12-12, 4-7) hosts #17 Maryland at the BJC on Tuesday. Tipoff is at 6:00 PM ET on BTN (hide the women and children).