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Penn State Hoops Suffers Tough 65-45 Loss To Rutgers

Penn State men’s basketball (13-7, 4-5 Big Ten) suffered a dramatic 20-point loss at the hands of Rutgers (13-6, 5-3 Big Ten) at Jersey Mike’s Arena in Piscataway Tuesday night.

The Nittany Lions went cold from distance and shot just 15% from behind the arc and struggled to minimize Rutgers center Clifford Omoruyi. Despite the loss, Jalen Pickett posted 15 points and eight rebounds and Andrew Funk and Seth Lundy each contributed 12 points.

How It Happened

Head coach Micah Shrewsberry rolled out a familiar lineup against the Scarlet Knights featuring big man Kebba Njie and four veterans.

Rutgers won the opening tip but missed its layup on the first possession, and gave Seth Lundy a prime opening to drop his first three-pointer of the night. The Nittany Lions and Scarlet Knights traded shots and possessions, but Rutgers center Clifford Omoruyi found his team’s rhythm and nailed three-straight buckets to take a quick lead.

Njie struggled to slow Omoruyi in the low post which resulted in an 8-0 run singlehandedly manufactured by the 6’11” center.

Jalen Pickett drew a foul in the Nittany Lions’ first consequential play in minutes and sunk just one shot from the foul line to close a powerful opening five minutes from the home team.

Pickett grabbed his first field goal after dancing through the Scarlet Knights’ defense and releasing his shot to the sound of the shot clock. Myles Dread attempted a triple in his first possession of the night but instead connected with the rim.

Lundy knocked down Penn State’s second three of the night to minimize Rutgers’ lead to five, but the opening 10 minutes of play was completely monopolized by Omoruyi.

Aundre Hyatt fouled Lundy on a three-point attempt and sent the forward to the charity stripe where he knocked down two of three. Shrewsberry threw Kanye Clary onto the floor and the freshman immediately secured a driving layup through Omoruyi’s coverage to cut Rutgers’ lead to 18-13.

Penn State and Rutgers traded baskets highlighted by a Lundy jumper from just a step inside the arc. Mawot Mag drained a swish three from the corner and Andrew Funk immediately responded with his first field goal of the game from the same spot on the opposite end of the court.

Rutgers commanded Penn State’s small-ball defense in the paint and exposed the lack of height and experience from Njie through the majority of the first half.

Funk pulled off his first attempt from three-point land right out of the media timeout to minimize the Scarlet Knights’ lead to seven. Pickett found a wide-open Njie in the following possession and completed a quick 5-0 run out of the break to stay alive and force a Rutgers timeout.

The Rutgers defense swarmed Pickett with a full-court press in the final minute of the half and the veteran Penn State shooting guard managed to sink a jump shot in the paint. Clary fouled Paul Mulcahy in the following play and the 6’7″ guard nailed both shots.

Dread couldn’t convert his look from deep in the dwindling seconds of play and Rutgers headed into the locker room leading Penn State 32-24 after the first 20 minutes.

Njie opened the second half with a strong look in the paint to secure a layup and a whistle to earn a potential three-point play. The freshman missed his free throw, but provided an important burst of energy to open the second half. Pickett followed up with what felt like Penn State’s first easy bucket and the momentum began to shift.

Hyatt and Pickett traded jump shots for their respective teams, then the Nittany Lion guard tried to slow down the pace of play. Unfortunately, that ended up rushing the Penn State lineup to beat the shot clock and Lundy couldn’t sink the three attempt.

Despite offensive struggles in the first half, the Nittany Lions began to find a more consistent energy and get perimeter shooters Funk and Lundy involved. Funk drained a mid-range jumper just five minutes into the half and completed a surge of energy right before the media timeout.

Out of the break, Pickett drove low to bring the score within one possession at 37-34. Then, Penn State secured two-straight offensive rebounds off of Funk jump shot attempts, but neither dropped.

The Scarlet Knights capitalized on Funk’s missed shots and rolled through a 6-0 run in less than a minute. Hyatt nailed two three-point jumpers to push Rutgers to a 13-point lead and force the Nittany Lions to hustle toward a comeback effort.

Funk breathed some life back into a flailing Penn State roster with a triple with four minutes remaining, but it wouldn’t do enough and Rutgers continued to pound the Nittany Lions in the post.

Shrewsberry subbed in Clary, Jameel Brown, Evan Mahaffey, and Dallion Johnson to close out the game and the young lineup wrapped up the matchup 65-45.

Takeaways:

  • Yikes. That was a rough outing for Kebba Njie. Sure, it’s not easy posting up against Clifford Omoruyi when he has an about inch of height and two years of college ball experience on you, but Njie couldn’t read Omoruyi and Penn State suffered in the paint as a result. Njie’s 16 minutes on the court were hard to watch, but the lack of a consistent big man might’ve been harder to watch.
  • The Nittany Lions’ shots were not falling and, because of that, it was Penn State’s lowest-scoring game all season. Seth Lundy did what he could from the perimeter and Jalen Pickett worked some magic, but there’s no competing with height in the post. To put it into perspective, Penn State only converted four of its specialty triples all night in comparison to 11 three-pointers against Wisconsin just three days ago. Moreover, Myles Dread didn’t score a single point. Ice cold.
  • According to Bart Torvik’s Tournament Forecast, this loss drops Penn State to a 67.7% chance of making the cut in March. Had the Nittany Lions pulled off the win, they would be looking at a 89.4% chance of appearing in the bracket. Not awesome.

What’s Next?

Penn State will return to Happy Valley for its annual THON game against Michigan. Tip-off is set for noon on Sunday, January 29, at the Bryce Jordan Center, and folks can tune in to the matchup on the Big Ten Network.

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About the Author

Keeley Lamm

Keeley is a sophomore journalism major from Richmond, Virginia, and is one of Onward State's associate editors. She also talks about random, fun stuff on our podcast, Podward State. Keeley is a lover of grilled cheese, naps, and Kevin Jonas. If you would like to share your thoughts on the superior Jonas Brother, feel free to contact her on Twitter @lammkeeley or send your best Spotify playlist to her email [email protected]

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