Penn State Beats Rutgers for First Conference Victory
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A weight was lifted off Penn State’s shoulders, as the Nittany Lions (4-6, 1-5) defeated Rutgers (7-6, 3-6) 75-67 Thursday night at the Bryce Jordan Center for their first conference victory of the season.
A 44-day streak without a win came to a close as sophomore forward Seth Lundy and company handled the Scarlet Knights attack with flying colors. Lundy recorded his first ever double-double with a career-high 10 rebounds and 16 points, including an alley-oop two-handed slam late in the first half. He also boasted a plus-minus rating of 18.
Interim head coach Jim Ferry’s focuses of late were defending, rebounding and not fouling—and the team checked all the boxes. The Blue and White won the rebound game 40-27, they played heavy-pressure defense throughout the night against Steve Pikiell’s Knights, and they committed just 11 team fouls.
Ferry was happy for his guys and was impressed with how they’ve stuck together through thick and thin in the nation’s best conference.
“We’ve been in battles we haven’t won,” Ferry said. “Heck, we’re a good team… [but] whoever is going to be Big Ten-mentally tough is going to be able to survive.”
Rutgers’ Big Ten tenacity showed later in the game with less than 10 minutes to go. Sitting at a 14-point deficit, leading scorer Ron Harper Jr. pushed his squad back into the game starting with a crafty run to the hoop, adding one more at the line on a foul by Lundy.
The junior then scored 10 more points in the game, including an alley-oop slam of his own, to help cut the Penn State lead to four with two minutes left.
But the comeback wasn’t enough. Junior guards Izaiah Brockington and Myreon Jones led the way in scoring for Penn State with 17 apiece. The team shot 49% from the field for its third-best performance of the season.
Ferry emphasized the dirty work senior forward John Harrar did inside with eight points and 11 rebounds. On the glass, he outplayed 6-foot-11-inch Scarlet Knight Myles Johnson, who had just seven rebounds. Ferry says the team wouldn’t be where it is today without him.
“I wish I could be [Harrar] for an hour or two,” Ferry said. “I think he’s that special.”
Junior Myles Dread wore a sling on his right arm and did not dress Thursday night after an injury he suffered Tuesday against Illinois. Ferry said his condition will be evaluated daily, and his return timetable is uncertain.
The Nittany Lions now face college basketball’s toughest schedule by record, and it all starts against Northwestern back at the Bryce Jordan Center Saturday night. But Ferry is confident in the road ahead, especially because the season isn’t even halfway over.
“I think the games we’ve played prior to this… are helping us figure out who we are,” Ferry said. “We might have lost [five straight games], but the way I see it, we were getting better, and that’s what we have to continue to do.”
Jack McCune is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.