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Rutgers 64, Penn State 60: Slip Slidin’ Away

Stevens’ second-half effort comes up short. Sound familiar?

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

In a game that was predictably ugly to watch, Penn State saw yet another potential win slip away. It feels redundant to point out once again the hallmarks of the Nittany Lions offense that prevented them from coming away with the win. It was a back-and-forth affair throughout the second half, but any time the home team got a lead, they froze. Rutgers took control over the final six minutes, and Penn State just didn’t seem to have enough in the tank.

The game started slow on both ends, as expected, with both teams struggling to hit field goals. Back-to-back threes by Rasir Bolton and Lamar Stevens opened up the offense for Penn State. While they tried to get Mike Watkins going early, they quickly resorted to a three-point-dominant attack. Rutgers was also one-dimensional, forcing the ball inside and resorting to jumpers only when the shot-clock required it.

Penn State was unable to find any rhythm. I noted one instance where they managed to score on consecutive possessions in the first half. Watkins had an early alley-oop finish, but struggled overall to influence the game. Rutgers was winning loose balls, and the rebound battle late in the half which allowed them to take a 30-26 lead into the break. Penn State was able to create open threes, but unable to make them consistently, and unable to create anything else on offense if not in transition.

After a brutal start to the second half with three turnovers in five possessions, a seven-point run for Penn State gave them a 33-32 lead. Turnovers by Rutgers, leading to easy transition points, gave life to the Nittany Lions on offense. However, once PSU went ahead, the offense stalled again, and Rutgers able to take advantage. That sums up much of the game really, for both sides. Rutgers led for a larger portion of the game, but was equally unable to build the lead beyond a couple of possessions, which allowed Penn State to hang around until the final possession.

The team suffered their ninth straight loss in yet another one-possession game. In the final minutes, it came down to free throws, turnovers, and rebounds. Not to mention the fact that Penn State wasn’t able to make the key plays when it mattered. There was a difficult jump-ball call that hurt the Nittany Lions’ chances late, but it shouldn’t have come down to one possession to begin with.

Four Factors Analysis

Penn State had a decent night from the line, with Stevens, Bolton and John Harrar making some key shots in the second half. The offensive struggles are nothing new, but it was disappointing the team couldn’t do more in the turnover battle.

Player of The Game

Stevens took over midway through the second half, and was crucial to keeping the game close into the closing minute of play.

Random Observations

  • Where is the full-court press? At this point in the season fatigue is a concern, but at 0-8 (0-9 now) it’s hard to imagine how much damage it could do to try a bit of the full-court press. Rutgers is a team that Penn State should be able to turn over, and while I understand not wanting to give up easy points, it would have been nice to see more attempts to create transition points.
  • The offense is hollow - Josh Reaves seems to be the only player who’s willing and able to feed Mike Watkins inside, and if Lamar Stevens isn’t operating one-on-one the offense consists of three-point attempts. Rutgers shot terribly, but there efforts to score inside led to free-throw attempts and offensive rebounds. Penn State may find quality looks from three, but when they don’t make their shots, there’s hardly any scoring.

Up Next

Penn State will host Purdue on Thursday at 7:00 PM ET. The game will be televised by Fox Sports 1.