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Penn State 66, Rutgers 49: Nittany Lions Stay Hot, Win for the Third Time in Four Games

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Penn State continues to play better than expected basketball for first year coach Micah Shrewsberry

NCAA Basketball: Rutgers at Penn State Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

Tuesday night the Penn State Nittany Lions welcomed the Rutgers Scarlet Knights to the Bryce Jordan Center. Entering the game the Nittany Lions had won 2 of 3 games played since returning from a two week long COVID pause. The lone loss was a hard fought loss against one of the best team’s in the country in Purdue this past weekend, and this was a loss that included the Nittany Lions leading for much of the first half. Additionally, they had won 3 of their last 4 against the Scarlet Knights.

Entering Tuesday night’s matchup the Scarlet Knights had also been playing their best basketball of the season. Rutgers were riding a four-game winning streak which included hanging 95 on Nebraska this past Saturday and upsetting Michigan the game prior.

Shortly after the game’s opening tip the Nittany Lions knocked the Scarlet Knights down. After knocking Rutgers down, it did not take Penn State long to put their foot on the throat of Rutgers. Penn State never trailed in the game on their way to 66-49 victory, improving to 8-6 overall on the season, 3-3 in Big Ten play.

Four Factors Analysis

Player of the Game

A pair of Nittany Lions take home player of the game honors for the victory. Sam Sessoms was the game’s leading scoring with 17 points. He was 7/10 form the field which included going 3/3 from three-point range. Sessoms led the Nittany Lions with 6 assists and set the tone for the Penn State offense.

Before the game Seth Lundy said he was not worried about his offensvie stats on Tuesday night as his main goal was shutdown Rutgers star Ron Harper Jr. As we will get into further with random observations, Harper Jr. struggled throughout the night which caused frustration to spill over for him. This played a large role in the offensive struggles of the Scarlet Knights. Lundy, who picked up 3 steals, deserves a ton of credit for this. He also chipped in 10 points to go with 3 rebounds.

Random Observations

Nittany Lion defense continues to step up - During their four-game winning streak Rutgers was averaging 81.8 points per game. Tuesday night the Nittany Lion defense completed stifled and shutdown what had been a hot Scarlet Knight offense. Rutgers shot just 33.9% from the field and 26.3% from behind the arc on their way to a 49 point performance. Penn State has now held 7 of their last 10 opponents to 10+ points less than what they average per game. Quietly, the Nittany Lions have been a strong defensive squad.

Rutgers stars neutralized - The aforementioned Harper Jr. and Geo Baker led the way for the Scarlet Knight offense. Both struggled immensely throughout the night, and at times there was visible frustration from Harper Jr. that bled over to all-around poor body language from Rutgers. The scoring duo shot just 2/12 from the field in the first half leading to them going just 5/21 for the game. The two combined for just 14 points despite both averaging 12+ PPG.

Following a big early run Penn State never looked back - With the game tied at 4 in the opening minutes, the Nittany Lions went on a 19-9 run that stretched much of the first half. This run gave the Nittany Lions a 23-13 lead. After this run Penn State never looked back. The Nittany Lions never trailed in this game. Following their early 19-9 run they never led by less than 4. Penn State took control of the game early and never gave it up.

Looking Ahead

The Nittany Lions return to the court on Sunday afternoon for a noon tilt in Columbus against the no. 16 Ohio State Buckeyes. Penn State will be looking to continue their strong play of late as they look to secure what would be the biggest win for Micah Shrewsberry thus far,