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Rutgers 59, Penn State 58: Almost

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Penn State couldn’t get their offense going, as Rutgers’s defense suffocated the Lions all afternoon.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights guard Geo Baker (0) looks to pass as Penn State Nittany Lions forward John Harrar (21) defends during the second half at Jersey Mike’s Arena Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

It was senior day in Piscataway, as Rutgers celebrated its most decorated senior class in recent memory. Ron Harper, Jr., Geo Baker, and Caleb McConnel, helped bring the Scarlet Knights from the depths of atrocity to a place they’ve seldom seen before. With a sold out place, and audible **** Penn State chants, the Scarlet Knights were ready to close the regular season with a bang.

Penn State, on the other hand, came into the game looking up at its former companion of the basement, looking to, at best, spoil the celebration at Jersey Mike’s Arena. It would seem, at least in the first half, that their goal would not come to pass.

The Nittany Lions shot a paltry 17.9% from the field, and a miserable 8.3% from three, as Rutgers’s defense was just too much to handle early. The Scarlet Knights would take a double-digit lead at several points in the half, and each and every time, it looked like Rutgers was going to blow the game open.

Credit to the Lions for fighting back, but likewise, every time Penn State close the game, Rutgers found ways to make a play to keep the Lions at arms’ length. For as poor as they shot from the floor, the Lions went 10 of 12 from the free throw line in the first half, which made up for the lack of shooting, and allowed the Lions to avoid getting insurmountably behind.

The beginning of the second half looked like it would be a continuation of the first, with Rutgers opening up a lead as high as 15. Right around the nine minute mark, however, the Nittany Lions started making shots. Slowly, but surely, they cut the lead to 10, then seven, then four, and for a brief period, they even held a one-point lead.

Just like the Illinois game, Penn State had a couple of opportunities to win the game, but missed shot after missed shot, Rutgers was able to prevail. The most egregious of them all, of course, was the last possession of the game, where the Lions came up with a steal, down one, but, instead of trying to go to the rim, the Lions settled for a contested three. Jalen Pickett’s tip in wouldn’t count, as time had well expired by the time he touched the ball.

Four Factors Analysis

Two teams at the top of the conference in points allowed per game, and it’s not surprising to see abysmal shooting numbers. Cliff Omoruyi picked up two quick fouls as soon as the game started, so that helped the Nittany Lions with the rebound numbers.

Credit Penn State, though, for overcoming that horrendous shooting performance in the first half, and ending with a merely bad 37% eFG instead.

Player of the Game

It took him a while to get going, but Seth Lundy and his 20 points, to go along with 3 rebounds, an assist, two steals, and two blocks were instrumental in both keeping Penn State from getting out of it altogether. And, in the second half, they helped make the comeback.

Random Observations

Hey Jeff Settles, there were two teams playing - Sure, Penn State is playing for pride at this point, but at least pretend to care about the other team?

Disbelief - Penn State could have had a better shot to end the game, but it seemed like they were shocked to find themselves with the ball. Four seconds went by before they woke up and tried to run a play. By then, it was too late.

Nevertheless, they persisted - Credit where it’s due, when they were down 15, no one would have been faulted for thinking they would roll over and die. That didn’t happen, and instead they had a chance at the win.

Looking Ahead

Penn State will either play Nebraska or Minnesota, in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament on Wednesday, March 9th. Game will tip off at 8:30 PM Eastern on the Big Ten Network.