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Penn State Hoops Outlasts Rutgers 61-46 For First Road Win

Penn State men’s basketball (10-11, 4-6 Big Ten) defeats Rutgers (10-10, 2-7 Big Ten) in Piscataway, New Jersey on Wednesday night, earning the first win outside of Pennsylvania in the Mike Rhoades era.

Ace Baldwin Jr. led the way for the Nittany Lions, doing everything they needed, including dropping 15 points, 10 assists, five rebounds, and five steals on the night. D’Marco Dunn added 14 more points in his second start of the season.

How It Happened

Due to the injured Kanye Clary, Mike Rhoades turned to Dunn to insert into the starting lineup. Rutgers won the tip and scored the game’s first bucket to start the scoring. Qudus Wahab and Dunn missed the first two buckets of the game, allowing the Scarlet Knights to jump out to a quick 6-0 lead. Dunn scored the first bucket of the night for the Nittany Lions’ off an offensive rebound.

Demetrius Lilley fouled Clifford Omoruyi under the Rutgers’ basket, sending the game to its first media timeout with Penn State trailing by three. After the timeout, the Scarlet Knight added two more points on the offensive glass, extending their lead. Jameel Brown checked into the game early for the blue and white, and on his first offensive possession, he missed a three-pointer.

Lilley put in an easy two points to cut the lead to 8-5 at the 13:26 mark, with both teams struggling to put points on the board. From there Rutgers scored on back-to-back possessions to extend its lead. Baldwin earned his first bucket of the game after the second media timeout with a floater inside the paint. Brown could not get back on defense after a three, and the Scarlet Knights feasted on a transition layup.

Trailing 14-7, the Nittany Lions still could not get any offense rolling against the top defense in the Big Ten. Luckily for Rhoades and Co., they continued to turn Rutgers over on the other side of the court. Dunn hit the first triple of the game for the Nittany Lions to cut the deficit to three with eight minutes to play in the opening half.

Wahab scored off an assist from Nick Kern Jr. on the next trip up the floor. Penn State grabbed its first lead moments later off a steal and score from Baldwin. Zach Hicks fouled Rutgers on a three-point attempt on the next possession, allowing the Scarlet Knights to tie the game at 16 apiece.

Off a beautiful pass from Baldwin, Dunn retook the lead for the Nittany Lions and the scoring continued with Baldwin hitting a three just seconds later. In replace of Clary, Dunn showed up once again with an offensive rebound off his own shot as Penn State led 23-18.

Out of the under-four timeout, Wahab knocked down two free throws and blocked a Rutgers shot on the defensive end. The Georgetown transfer returned to the line after being fouled on a putback dunk attempt, making one from the charity stripe. After Brown missed the front end of a one-and-one, Derek Simpson went to the line after a Nittany Lions’ foul.

Simpson returned to the line on the next trip down the floor, making both shots to bring the Scarlet Knights within two points. Hicks could not connect from deep on the final shot of the half, sending the Nittany Lions into the break, up by a bucket. Penn State went the last 3:47 of the half without a field goal.

Baldwin drew an offensive foul seven seconds into the second half and Kern opened the scoring with an easy bucket on the Nittany Lions’ first possession. Baldwin kept the momentum going in transition, drawing another foul on Rutgers. The Penn State point guard split his shots at the line, making it a 31-26 ballgame.

Hicks knocked down a wide-open three after missing his first three attempts, forcing Steve Pikiell to call his first timeout of the half. After the timeout, Rutgers went to a more aggressive defense to slow down the Nittany Lions. The pressure gave Penn State problems as Baldwin called timeout to regroup the blue and white.

The Scarlet Knights’ defense amped up the pressure even more, forcing a shot clock violation out of the break. After the quick burst from Rutgers, Dunn silenced the crowd with a three and extended the lead to 37-30. Wahab came up with a huge rejection on the defensive end to keep the Rutgers’ offense stalling.

Rutgers hit its first three of the night, cutting the deficit to four with 13:30 to play. Baldwin forced another turnover to get the easy bucket, his fifth steal of the night. After the under-twelve timeout, Wahab got things going inside with a post-bucket. Following a Rutgers bucket, Baldwin went to the rim and drew the foul, hitting one shot at the line.

Leading 42-35, the Nittany Lions stepped up its defense, forcing another turnover with a Rutgers travel. With less than 10 minutes to play, Penn State had forced 19 Scarlet Knight turnovers. Kern extended the lead to nine points with one of his signature tough buckets on the next possession.

Rutgers hit back-to-back buckets to cut the deficit to five but Baldwin answered with a mid-range jumper. A broken possession for the blue and white the next time down the floor ended with another shot clock violation and turnover.

Brown and Dunn missed on back-to-back threes to keep the score at 46-39 with six minutes remaining. Both teams continued to struggle from the field down the stretch. Finally, Baldwin used his vision to find an open Puff Johnson at the rim, who was fouled. The North Carolina transfer made both of his shots at the line.

Jamichael Davis and Zach Hicks traded buckets on back-to-back possessions. Leading by 10 points Penn State showed off its ball movement to find Lilley in the middle for two more points. Pikiell called a timeout with 3:50 remaining and trailing by 12 points.

A few possessions after the break, Johnson made two more free throws at the line, with the Rutgers crowd starting to leave the building. Johnson was fouled again, hitting two more to extend the Nittany Lions’ lead. Rutgers barely played the foul game late, securing the first win outside of Pennsylvania for the Nittany Lions all year, at 61-46.

Takeaways:

  • Penn State turned Rutgers over time and time again. It felt like at times the Scarlet Knights had zero intentions of holding on to the ball. Mike Rhoades’ signature crafty defense was on display on the road for the Nittany Lions.
  • What appeared to be a slow start for the Nittany Lions turned into an all-around defensive battle in Piscataway. For the majority of the game, both teams struggled to get things going from the field. Penn State held the Scarlet Knights to only one three-pointer in the game.
  • The victory over Rutgers was the first road or neutral site win of the Mike Rhoades era. The Nittany Lions didn’t look great at the start of the game but were able to get the job done behind its intimidating defense.

What’s Next?

Penn State returns to the floor at noon on Saturday, February 3, on the road against Indiana. The game will be broadcast on FS1.

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About the Author

CJ Gill

CJ is a sophomore from McVeytown, Pennsylvania majoring in broadcast journalism and an associate editor at Onward State. He has the great privilege of living in central Pennsylvania...Which isn't so great. You can send all disagreements to [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @CJGill14.

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