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Rutgers 65, Penn State 45: Knights Defense Too Much To Handle

Penn State played its worst game of the season at Jersey Mike’s Arena.

an 24, 2023; Piscataway, New Jersey, USA; Rutgers Scarlet Knights guard Cam Spencer (10) is guarded by Penn State Nittany Lions guard Andrew Funk (10) during the first half at Jersey Mike’s Arena.  Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Every team has one of “those” games. For Penn State, that came in this contest at Jersey Mike’s Arena. The Nittany Lions are not the first to look like high school players when the place formerly known as The RAC, and certainly won’t be the last. But, for a team looking to put itself in the right side of the bubble, nights like this make the task that much taller.

The Lions scored the first points of the night, and from there, it was basically all Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights would go on an 8-0 run after that first three (of which there would be three more for the Lions, a season low). From there, Rutgers did what it does best: ramp up the defense, force its opponent to take bad shots, and little by little, strangle the will to live out of whoever they’re playing.

The interesting part of this equation is that the Knights didn’t actually force Penn State into bad shots. The Lions simply couldn’t make the array of open looks they did get. In fact, of the 26 threes they took, about 20 of them were open looks. Thus, we get back to the original point: Penn State had one of “those” games against a team that, let’s be honest, can get away with a little bit of extra intensity at home, which only serves to compound problems for its opponent.

The second half saw a bit of a resurgence, when Jalen Pickett took the ball inside in a number of possessions. The Lions narrowed a double-digit deficit to only three, but, with three chances to either tie or take the lead, the Scarlet Knights once again ramped up the intensity, the Lions stopped making the shots, and a three-point deficit slowly but surely became a 10-, 15-, 17-, and finally the 20-point deficit that mercifully ended the game.

Player of the Game

Seth Lundy was the man in the first half, scoring nearly half of Penn State’s 24 points. Jalen Pickett was equally as good in the second, and was the reason the Nittany Lions were still competing for most of the half. Unfortunately, those were the only two players with any sort of consistency, and that was clearly not enough.

Random Observations

We just need to accept it - Penn State gets called for fouls. Sometimes, the other team gets called for fouls too, but the only constant is that Penn State is going to put teams in the double bonus likely the rest of the way. Sure, Cliff Omoruyi fell on Evan Mahaffey, but that’s clearly a foul on Mahaffey.

Burn the tape - Just as it’s unrealistic to expect Penn State to make 18 threes a game, 4-of-26 will be hard to replicate. This is one of those performances that you simply stow away and move on with your life.

Oh neat! - Of Penn State’s seven double plays (Illinois, Michigan, Purdue, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Rutgers, and Maryland), five of them start on the road. The silver lining is five of those teams will have to travel to the Nittany Lions when it’s go time.

Looking Ahead

Speaking of return dates, the Lions get their first one on Sunday, as they host Michigan in the second leg of the series Game is scheduled for a 12:00 PM tipoff on the Big Ten Network.