Basketball Preview: Rutgers
Will Desautelle, Brian McLaughlin, Anthony Spada and Zach Kaplan give their predictions of Penn State's upcoming game against the Scarlet Knights.
Two teams in the lower half of the Big Ten conference will face off on Saturday as the Rutgers Scarlet Knights (12-11, 1-9 Big Ten) head to University Park, Pa. to take on the Penn State Nittany Lions (12-11, 4-6 Big Ten).
For Penn State it could be a chance to get back on track in the Big Ten race against an opponent who struggles in conference play. These two teams faced off once earlier in the season on New Year’s Day when the Nittany Lions overcame the Scarlet Knight 60-47 in that game.
Rutgers comes into the game with a three game losing streak and their one conference win of the season coming against Nebraska on January 21st. Rutgers won the Nebraska contest 65-64 with one second remaining on the clock. Penn State are coming into the game winning only one of their last four, including falling to Indiana in triple overtime 110-102 on Wednesday.
In this matchup, Penn State lead the all-time series 40-30. Penn State is 25-8 against Rutgers when playing at home as well, adding to their confidence coming into the game. In their earlier matchup, Rutgers held Penn State to only 36.4 percent shooting, but couldn’t consistently find he basket with their own shots, shooting only 28.6 percent on their field goal attempts and 15 percent on their three pointers.
Rutgers’ struggles have been consistent all year in the Big Ten, averaging 58 points per game while giving up an average of 71.5 points. Rutgers have only scored more than 60 points four times in Big Ten play, while their opponents have not yet scored less than 60, Penn State being the lowest at exactly 60. Penn State on the other hand have averaged 68.1 points in their 10 conference games while their opponents averaged 74.3. Still not great as Penn State’s defense tends to suffer when their offense picks up.
Rutgers are going to have to watch out for multiple Penn State players, including freshman forward Mike Watkins who leads the Nittany Lions in rebounds on both sides of the court and who earned his sixth double-double of the season against Indiana on Wednesday. Penn State also have four players averaging over 11 points per game, with Watkins just missing out at 9.5. Penn State’s four are Shep Garner (12.5 PPG), Tony Carr (12 PPG), Payton Banks (11.9 PPG) and Lamar Stevens (11.7 PPG).
Penn State will be keeping a close eye on Rutgers’ standouts as well, including junior forward Deshawn Freeman who had his ninth double-double of the season against Iowa on Tuesday and leads his team in boards on both sides of the court. Freeman’s double-double against Iowa gives him the most double-doubles in a season for a Rutgers player since Rashod Kent (14) in 2001-02. Rutgers top scorers are Corey Sanders (12.4 PPG), Deshawn Freeman (11.3 PPG) and Nigel Johnson (11 PPG).
This matchup will come down to whichever team wakes up more ready to play, as consistency has been a problem for both teams. With the higher shooting percentage and more consistent defense, Penn State looks to have the edge heading into Saturday. The triple overtime game could affect the Nittany Lion starters, who also have one less day to rest up for the game, but Penn State should have confidence against a Rutgers team who barely managed one win in the Big Ten so far this season.
Prediction: Penn State 70, Rutgers 56
Tommy Butler is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.