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Penn State Hoops Bounces Back Against Rutgers 66-49

Penn State men’s basketball (8-6) topped Rutgers (9-6) 66-49 Tuesday night at the Bryce Jordan Center for its third conference win of the new year.

The Nittany Lions were led by strong scoring efforts by guards Sam Sessoms and Jalen Pickett, as well as a potent defensive effort.

How It Happened

Following a tough loss to Purdue Saturday, the Nittany Lions returned to the court to take on the Rutgers Scarlet Knights — winners of their last four games. The starting lineup for Penn State remained untouched since its game, with the exception of Myles Dread getting the start over Jaheam Cornwall in the backcourt alongside senior Jalen Pickett.

Both teams opened the game strong on the defensive side of the floor as the first basket wasn’t scored until Jalen Pickett’s turn-around jumper went through over two-and-a-half minutes in, giving Penn State the first points of the game.

It was a defensive battle early on with both teams shooting under 30%, while John Harrar dominated the glass. That led to second chances for the Nittany Lions which added up to a 12-point lead about halfway through the first.

After a sluggish start early on in terms of its shooting, Penn State found its rhythm to go on a 17-4 run in which Jalen Pickett led all scorers with seven.

Similar to Penn State, Rutgers was eventually able to find its shooting stroke and as a result, trimmed the Nittany Lions lead down to single digits in the closing minutes of the first half.

After a quiet performance in the last game against Purdue, senior guard Sam Sessoms gave the Nittany Lions a much-needed boost off the bench with seven points in the first half on 3-for-5 shooting. Sessoms’ strong half officially put the senior over 1500 career points.

Heading into the break, Penn State led by a score of 27-19. Jalen Pickett led all scorers at the half with 11 points on 5-for-9 shooting. The Scarlet Knights had seven players record a field goal in the first half, with their leading scorer being sophomore center Clifford Omoruyi with just four points.

After leading the Scarlet Knights in scoring in the first half, Omuruyi scored the first points of the second to push it to a two-possession game.

Within just the first four minutes of the half, the two teams combined for six turnovers, four by the Nittany Lions

Penn State’s strong play to end the first half did not carry over to the second half as. The Nittany Lions struggled with ball security and interior scoring every time John Harrar checked out of the game.

As the game transitioned into the later stages, Seth Lundy and Sam Sessoms hit big back-to-back three pointers to put Penn State’s lead back to double digits.

As the clock ticked deeper into the second half, the Nittany Lions slowly began to pull away thanks to strong performances down the stretch by Sessoms and Pickett.

Takeaways

  • The Nittany Lions’ defense was suffocating all game, particularly in the first half, holding the Scarlet Knights to just 19 points entering halftime. Led by John Harrar and Greg Lee, Penn State forced seven turnovers in the first half, holding Rutgers to under 30% shooting for majority of the first 20 minutes.
  • What stands out most from the box score — and perhaps a big reason for Penn State’s win — is points in the paint. The Nittany Lions outscored Rutgers by 10 in the paint, in large part due to John Harrar. The senior big man had 16 points, second-most on the team. Second-chance points were another factor that led to the sustained success in the paint. Greg Lee led all players with 12 rebounds and was a force early on.
  • Despite not playing in the team’s most recent game against Purdue, senior guard Sam Sessoms was a catalyst off the bench for the Nittany Lions in this one. The senior guard, and Philadelphia native, led all players with 17 points and six assists.

What’s Next?

The Nittany Lions will try to win back-to-back games for the second time this month when they hit the road for Columbus to take on Ohio State this Sunday. Tipoff is set for 12 p.m on the Big Ten Network.

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About the Author

Devon Craley

Junior studying Sports Journalism. I have the genuine misfortune of being a Philadelphia Sports fan, iykyk. Send me your hot takes and preferably your freezing cold takes on Twitter (@devon3134). Your friendly neighborhood State College movie nerd.

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