Penn State (12-11, 4-6 Big Ten) returned to the Bryce Jordan Center Saturday to take on Rutgers (13-11, 2-8 Big Ten) in an early afternoon Big Ten showdown. The Nittany Lions came home after suffering a heart-breaking triple overtime loss to Indiana Wednesday.
How It Happened
Rutgers controlled the opening tip and knocked down a three to get things rolling, but Shep Garner immediately responded with a three of his own to get Penn State on the board. After a C.J. Gettys bucket for Rutgers, Garner drilled another shot from deep to give Penn State the early 6-5 advantage.
Every member of the Nittany Lions struggled shooting the ball in the first half except Shep Garner. It took until the 3:09 mark of the first half for someone other than Garner to make a field goal for Penn State, which is not a recipe for success at this level.
Garner finished the first half with 17 points on 6-8 shooting, including five triples. The rest of the team combined for an abysmal 1-18 shooting from the field. Foul shooting was an improvement in the first half today compared to the team’s performance at the line against Indiana as the team went 10-13 from the charity stripe in the half.
Penn State could not get anything going inside the paint against the Scarlet Knights, putting up a goose egg in the points in the paint column. The Nittany Lions did do a good job of limiting turnovers, only committing five in the first half compared to Rutgers’ nine turnovers.
In the second half, it was easy to tell that Pat Chambers wanted Penn State to get better ball movement. The team responded getting two quick buckets in the paint to get going in the second half. However, Penn State continued to get beat on the boards allowing multiple second-chance opportunities for the Scarlet Knights.
Momentum continued to swing Rutgers’ way as the bearings began to fall off of Penn State’s play. An unwise foul by Lamar Stevens sent him to the bench with three, but Chambers later opted for his bigger lineup midway through the final half with Stevens and Mike Watkins back on the court. Garner’s hot streak continued with a fadeaway three from the wing in the face of a defender to cut the lead to seven, and a gorgeous feed to Mike Watkins for the slam on the very next possession. Stevens’ fouling ways continued after another personal foul sent him to the bench for the remainder of the game.
Up 60-49 with less than six minutes to play, Rutgers held onto the lead by maintaining possession on the glass. Without Mike Watkins on the court, the Nittany Lions couldn’t stave off a tough Rutgers attack on the boards. A key three-pointer from Payton Banks cut Rutgers’ lead to six, and his subsequent steal and lob to Watkins blew the lid off the Bryce Jordan Center with the team trailing only by four with 2:36 left on the clock. The Nittany Lions stole the momentum after Tony Carr stole it back and cruised down the court for a layup that got his team to within two late in the half.
Missed shots and blown opportunities stifled a Penn State comeback as the Scarlet Knights managed to corral a pair of crucial rebounds to jump back out to a six-point lead with 38 ticks remaining. Carr, who finished with 17 points, had a mid-range shot blocked which seemingly sealed the deal for the Scarlet Knights, but a critical three-pointer by a wide-open Josh Reaves kept the Nittany Lions within one with 9.9 seconds left on the clock. Down two points, the Nittany Lions would receive one final opportunity with 5.1 seconds remaining. Tony Carr drove hard to the lane into traffic but ultimately couldn’t get his layup to fall. Rutgers would hold on to win 70-68.
Player Of The Game
Shep Garner | G | Jr.
The Nittany Lions might’ve had a subpar afternoon from the floor, but Shep Garner certainly carried the weight of the team with his hot hand from beyond the arc. Garner finished 9-13 from the field and 6-9 from three point land for a 24-point scoring outburst. At one point late in the first half, he was the only Nittany Lion to record a field goal.
The Nittany Lions stay home for their next game on Tuesday when they take on No. _ Maryland. The action begins at 6 p.m. and can be seen on BTN.