Nittany Lions Survive Scarlet Knights’ Strong Second Half for 65-64 Victory
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State’s lone 3-point bucket of the second half came off the hands of Myles Dread with 28 seconds remaining to put a lid on the Rutgers Scarlet Knights’ 21-point comeback effort and seal a 65-64 victory for the Nittany Lions at the Bryce Jordan Center on Wednesday night.
Entering the game, Penn State was looking to end a two-game losing streak. That seemed to be a sure thing after a dominant first half in which Penn State went 6-for-13 from 3-point range to take a 42-24 lead over the Scarlet Knights into halftime.
“The first 20 minutes today, I thought we played Penn State basketball,” head coach Pat Chambers said. “If we could put that together with the second 20 minutes of Indiana, that’s who we are. That’s the vision I have for Penn State basketball.”
But Rutgers didn’t go away. The Scarlet Knights found their footing at the perimeter, draining four shots from beyond the arc and keeping the Nittany Lions scoreless in the second half from long range until the final 30 seconds.
“The game could have gotten ugly and it didn’t,” Rutgers head Steve Pikiell said. “Our guys battled. They stayed the course.”
Suddenly, a 10-0 scoring run from Rutgers midway through the second half brought the game within one. While the Nittany Lions were able to distance themselves eventually, another 9-0 run from the Scarlet Knights in the final four minutes gave them the lead for the first time all game. But it didn’t last, as Dread’s game-winning shot quelled the Scarlet Knights’ comeback attempt.
“We never panicked,” Dread said. “They were making their runs, and we knew they were going to. But we didn’t let their runs overwhelm us. When they took the lead, that’s when we knew we had to buckle down.”
In Penn State’s sixth straight game without Myreon Jones, the Nittany Lions needed players to step up, and Dread filled that role. Dread was second among all Nittany Lions in scoring with 11 on the day. The sophomore also recorded seven assists, a single-game career high.
“[Myles] knows that I’m confident in him,” Chambers said. “He knows the players are confident in him. When he came off that [game-winning shot], as soon as it left his hand, we knew it was in. He knows that’s his role on the team, and with [Myreon Jones] out, we evolved his role. He had seven assists today.”
With the win, Penn State reaches 21-7 overall and 11-6 in Big Ten play, tied for second with Michigan State and just 1½ games behind Maryland. Rutgers, meanwhile, falls to 18-11 overall and 9-9 in conference, as well as 1-8 on the road this season.
Both teams are looking to end lengthy NCAA Tournament droughts, as Penn State and Rutgers haven’t appeared in March Madness since 2011 and 1991, respectively. While the Nittany Lions are all but locked into the tournament field, the Scarlet Knights are on the bubble and will likely need a strong finish in conference to play to reach the big dance for the first time in three decades.
The Nittany Lions will hit the road for a Saturday rematch with the Iowa Hawkeyes in Iowa City.
DJ Bauer is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.