Men’s Basketball Routs Rutgers to Claim First Big Ten Victory
Penn State basketball…
Wait for it…
Won its first game against a Big Ten opponent.
The Nittany Lions rolled over Rutgers 79-51 in the Bryce Jordan Center on Saturday. The 28-point decision was Penn State’s largest win over a Big Ten opponent since 2000.
After opening conference play with an 0-6 record — including a couple of especially crushing losses in their last two matchups against Purdue and Michigan State — The Lions (13-7, 1-6 Big Ten) landed the “W” in uncharacteristic fashion.
Some pinpoint outside shooting and an aggressive full court defense helped Penn State build a comfortable 13-point lead in the first half. The Lions went in for the kill in the second half, something they’ve failed to do for the entirety of their conference schedule. They built an insurmountable lead early on to cruise to victory.
How It Happened
Penn State ranks toward the bottom in the Big Ten in 3-point percentage, shooting just a shade under 32 percent. However, the Lions opened the game 4-of-6 from behind the arc including a rare deep ball from Donovon Jack (his first of the season), before hitting their first 2-point field goal on a free throw.
Rutgers held an early 15-12 lead, when a Brandon Taylor jumper and a steal and fastbreak finish by Geno Thorpe ignited Penn State. The Lions continued to force turnovers and hit their mark from deep to go on an 18-5 run. After a free throw by Rutgers’ Kadeem Jack, Thorpe forced two more steals on back-to-back possessions, both leading to free throws for Penn State. Rutgers eventually cut the Penn State lead to eight, but another 3-ball from Taylor and a jumper from Thorpe sent the Lions into the tunnel with a healthy lead.
When the Lions returned to the court in the second half, coach Patrick Chambers had one goal in mind:
“I wanted to win the second half,” Chambers said. “I didn’t [tell it to them] like that. It was more win the next possession, win the next possesion and we won enough possessions to win.”
The Lions answered the call, opening the half with consecutive 3-pointers from Taylor and Shep Garner and an and-one by Newbill on a fastbreak. The 9-0 run put Penn State up 50-22. The commanding lead wouldn’t be threatened for the rest of the game as the Lions stayed aggressive. Several possessions later, key reserve Devin Foster cleared an offensive board and went coast-to-coast for a crafty layup that ballooned the lead to 25 points.
The only scare for Penn State came midway through the half when Taylor banged knees with a Rutgers player and limped off of the court with the help of the coaching staff. He rejoined the team on the bench later in the half supported by crutches with an ice pack around his right knee. Taylor finished with 16 points.
Player of the Game
Not much new here, as D.J. Newbill commanded Penn State’s offense and finished with 23 points. Newbill terrorized Rutgers in his usual array of ways: a couple of 3-pointers, floaters over the arms of an outstretched defender and his deadly pull up jumper.
Though his box score didn’t speak volumes, Geno Thorpe led the way for Penn State on the defensive end with some high-energy plays. His three steals initiated some crucial run-outs and helped Penn State build its lead. He also chipped in nine points.
Stat of the Game
With his 23 point performance today, Newbill scored at least 20 points for the 12th time this season, the most of any major conference player.
It was Kevin Montminy towel day at the Bryce Jordan Center and fans in the arena got to see their champion in action in the final minute of the game. Montminy was met with resounding cheers and even had a fan holding a fathead in his likeness.
He was fouled with 25 seconds left for his first chance to score. He missed both free throws but swooped in to grab his own offensive board and then… missed a contested lay up. Despite the missed opportunities, Montminy ended the game as a hero in all of our hearts.
Penn State has a chance to build off Saturday’s success on Wednesday when it takes on Minnesota (12-8, 1-6 Big Ten) in the BJC. The Gophers lone conference win also came against Rutgers.
Photo: Craig Houtz