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Penn State Hoops Bounces Back With ‘Connected’ Performance Against Rutgers

After enduring an extended break due to multiple positive COVID-19 tests, Penn State men’s basketball was clearly rusty in its first two games back.

In its first Big Ten victory Thursday night, however, that rust was nowhere to be found.

With a road loss against Purdue and an ugly loss to No. 22 Illinois in their first contests of the new year, the Nittany Lions were in dire need of a victory. As the only other winless team in the Big Ten entering Thursday’s game against Rutgers, Jim Ferry’s squad responded.

“I’m just really proud of this group of guys,” Ferry said after the game. “This is a tough league, we’ve been in battles. I think our guys really showed the character that we see every day. I thought our guys really looked connected today.”

In what was truly a team effort, several players who seemed a bit cold out of the long mid-season break looked back to themselves in the 75-67 win over Rutgers. Myreon Jones and Izaiah Brockington both led the Nittany Lions with 17 points each, while star sophomore Seth Lundy added 16 points and 10 boards.

The Nittany Lions managed to shoot 49.1% from the field as a team after averaging 33.4% in their first two games back. It’s much easier to win games when the ball is going in the hoop, but you’re also going to need to play some good defense.

Ferry described Thursday’s contest as Penn State’s “best defensive game,” and for good reason. The group grabbed clutch rebounds when needed most, 11 of which were collected by John Harrar, who’s been relied upon as Penn State’s sole big man for much of this season.

Harrar has grabbed double-digit rebounds in three of the Nittany Lions’ last four games, and his efforts were finally rewarded tonight.

“John Harrar is the greatest leader I have ever been around,” Ferry said. “I’ve been coaching for 30 years. He is the most consistent human being, and that’s in everything. Every single day he comes with such a good approach. He leaves every ounce of energy he has on the court every night.”

The senior big man has clearly been relied upon as a spark for this team over the course of an up and down season, and his consistency is an example of how Penn State wants to carry itself through the rest of the conference gauntlet.

Jones explained postgame that Harrar was literally back on the practice court just a few minutes after the victory. Leadership moments such as that one are what Ferry wants from his squad the rest of the way.

“This is the greatest league in the country by far,” Ferry said. “Whoever’s gonna be Big Ten mentally tough is gonna be able to survive this. Not just regular mental toughness. Big Ten mental toughness…We’re gonna move on from this game as quickly as we moved on from the Illinois [game] because you have to.”

Ferry and his team will certainly have a chance to move on quickly now, as they’re set to host Northwestern this Saturday at the Bryce Jordan Center for a 7 p.m. tipoff. The Wildcats currently hold a 3-6 Big Ten record, but that includes impressive wins over Ohio State and Michigan State.

That challenge is just another example of how hard Penn State will need to work to earn every win it gets in the Big Ten this season.

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About the Author

Will Pegler

Will is a junior majoring in digital and print journalism and is an associate editor for Onward State. He is from Darien, Connecticut and is a lifelong Penn State football fan. He loves a good 80's comedy movie, Peaky Blinders, The Office, and the New York Yankees and Giants. You can catch some of his ridiculous sports takes on his Twitter @gritdude and yell at him on his email [email protected]

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