Game Grades: Penn State Men’s Basketball vs. Rutgers
Looking to try and secure the team’s third Quad 1 win of the season, the Penn State Nittany Lions could not walk out of Piscataway with a victory over Rutgers, losing 65-45 Tuesday night.
This marks the fourth loss in the last six games for the blue and white, with no back-to-back wins in that stretch. The last time the team strung together a couple of wins was in early December when Penn State went on a five-game win streak.
Now, the Nittany Lions are in a purgatory of dropping conference games and plummeting their tournament resume. Tuesday night was a microcosm of that.
There is a saying in basketball that if you live by the three, you die by the three. Penn State died by the three, going 4-26 (15.4%) from beyond the arc.
Not only did the team suffer from the three, but they also suffered from their depth scoring. A total of five players recorded a bucket in the game.
Diving deeper into the stats, 39 of the blue and white’s 45 points came from three people. Guard Jalen Pickett led with 15 points, followed up by guard Andrew Funk and forward Seth Lundy each contributing 12 points.
The other six points came from forward Kebba Njie’s four points and one bucket from guard Kanye Clary.
Offensive rebounding has not been a focal point of Penn State’s offense due to the lack of interior presence. The Nittany Lions cleaned the offensive glass three times all game compared to the 36 defensive rebounds for the Scarlet Knights.
It was not a pretty sight offensively for the squad. However, the defense managed to be a small light.
Rutgers had an easy time shooting from the floor, going 46% all around and 30.8% from 3-point land. Out of nine players that checked into the game, seven recorded a bucket on the scoresheet.
The leading scorer came from the interior with center Clifford Omoruyi, posting 16 points on 6-7 shooting and 10 rebounds. Three other Scarlet Knights contributed double figures, including 12 points from Paul Mulcahy, 10 points from Caleb McConnell, and 14 points off the bench from forward Aundre Hyatt.
Penn State struggled to clean the glass defensively, only grabbing 23 boards for a grand total of 26 rebounds. To put that into perspective, Rutgers had 36 rebounds defensively. Adding seven more boards to the offensive frontcourt puts coach Steve Pikiell’s team at 43 rebounds.
Not only was the glass in favor of the Scarlet Knights, but Omoruyi and company had a fair share of their points from the charity stripe. Rutgers had 19 opportunities to get the additional point from the free-throw line, and they converted 15 of them off 17 fouls by Penn State.
It’s tough to grade a coaching job with an off-shooting night. However, there could have been some things that may have helped.
First, the offense looked very stagnant against a top defense in the nation. There was not a lot of movement around the perimeter nor many off-ball screens, to get guys some open looks.
When there were open looks, the play designs were great, it just could not fall. You can’t truly blame coach Micah Shrewsberry on that.
In the postgame press conference, an irate Shrewsberry was not happy with how the team played defensively and took the blame for it. “I don’t know how I let them become this soft defensively as a team,” Shrewsberry said, “If you want to win in this league, you have got to play tough.”
Shrewsberry is needing to get back his identity of “Gritty, Not Pretty” into the team. If not, it could be the difference between an NCAA Tournament birth or an NIT invitation.
Penn State comes back to the Bryce Jordan Center to take on the Michigan Wolverines on Sunday, Jan. 29 at noon.
Jonathan Draeger is a third-year broadcast journalism major. To contact him, email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.