There are not a lot of big games played at the Bryce Jordan Center. Sunday night, however, the Nittany Lions will be playing in the rare big game at the BJC. As Micah Srhewsberry’s team continues to push for a NCAA Tournament berth the Nittany Lions will host the Rutgers Scarlet Knights.
Penn State enters the game owning a 17-11 record, currently listed as one of Joe Luanrdi’s first four teams out in his latest Bracketology. As for Rutgers, the Scarlet Knights will also enter the contest at 17-11 on the season. However, the Scarlet Knights are firmly within Lunardi’s projected field of 68.
Sunday night’s game gives the Nittany Lions the opportunity to pick up their 4th Quad 1 victory of the season. Doing this would go a long way toward Coach Shrews Nittany Lions being able to lockdown an at-large berth into the NCAA Tournament.
Scouting the Opposition
The Nittany Lions appear to be getting the Scarlet Knights at the right time. While Penn State has won three games in a row, Rutgers is coming off a loss against Michigan and have lost three of their last four games.
That said, this will not be an easy game. Even at the Bryce Jordan Center. Steve Pikiell’s team is one of the best defensive squads in the country. Rutgers allowed just 59.8 points per game which ranks 8th nationally and 1st in the Big Ten.
Opposing teams are shooting just 38.9% from the field against Rutgers this season, which ranks 8th nationally, and 29.9% from three-point range which ranks 19th. Their field goal percentage defense ranks 1st in the Big Ten, and their three-point defense is 2nd in the conference.
Rutgers also has one of the best big men in the Big Ten in Clifford Omoruyi. The 6-foot-11 senior is averaging 13.3 points and 9.8 rebounds per game while shooting 50.5% from the field, all of which lead the Scarlet Knights. When the two teams played in Piscataway in late January, Omoruyi had 16 points, 10 rebounds, and 3 blocks.
Guard Cam Spencer is also an offensive threat for the Scarlet Knights. Shooting 42.3% from three-point range this season, Spencer is averaging 12.6 PPG. Senior Paul Mulcahy is averaging a team leading 5.2 assists per game and can help stir the offensvie drink as well.
For as good as they are defensively, the Scarlet Knights can really struggle offensively. They are averaging 68.8 PPG this season which ranks 284th nationally. As a team they shoot just 43.2% from the field and 32.3% from three-point range.
What to Watch For
Nittany Lion response - After his team lost while getting smothered by the Scarlet Knight defense in late January Coach Shrews did not hold back his feelings. He was not happy with his team’s effort and he made it known to the media. Will the Nittany Lions use that as fuel to respond with a strong performance? As a wise man once said, time will tell.
Can Andrew Funk bounce back - While he played a strong game defensively, Andrew Funk had what was by far his worst offensive performance as a Nittany Lion against Ohio State on Thursday. Funk, who leads the Big Ten in three-pointers made, went 0/2 from the field and did not attempt a three-point shot. Can Funk bounce back offensively? Doing so could go a long way toward a Nittany Lion victory.
This is a tough game to predict. Rutgers is excellent defensively and seemingly a poor matchup for the Nittany Lions. However, Penn State has been surging the last two weeks while Rutgers has been struggling and the game is at the BJC. That said, and hopefully I am wrong, the Scarlet Knights squeak all a close one. Rutgers 63, Penn State 58