Rutgers Comes Back Down 19 points, Beats Penn State
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Penn State’s tournament hopes took a hit after Rutgers came back down 19 points and took down the Nittany Lions 59-56.
In the final 9:16 of the game, Penn State found themselves ice cold from the floor, not making a single bucket the entire way through. That gave Rutgers a chance to claw their way back into the game and take advantage of the Nittany Lions going one of their last 18 shots and missing their last 14 jumpers.
“I just think we got a little stagnant,” senior guard Cam Wynter said. “The ball stopped moving. Players stopped moving. We just didn’t execute within the game.”
The win helped give Rutgers their largest comeback win since 1996, when the Scarlet Knights overcame a 20-point second-half deficit to beat the Pittsburgh Panthers 27 years ago to the date. That last time the team was down double-digits in the second half was Feb. 10, 2020 with a 18-point comeback win over the Northwestern Wildcats.
“The way they played, I thought they deserved to win,” said coach Micah Shrewsberry. “I thought the plays they made played down the stretch. Just some toughness plays, offensively and defensively, that they needed to do.”
The second half saw the lead as high as 19 points with 17 minutes left in the second half. After a timeout by coach Steve Pikiell of Rutgers, Rutgers started to change things up.
“They usually sent two at the ball a lot of times, really doubled [Jalen Pickett], trying to get the ball out of his hands and forced other guys to try and beat them,” Shrewsberry said.
With that, the cold shooting began, especially from forward Seth Lundy, who found himself 1-16 on the day and 0-11 from beyond the arc. Shrewsberry still believed in his guy on a night to forget.
“He leads the Big Ten in three-point percentage,” the second-year head coach said. “I am going to trust him.”
With the lack of shooting, Rutgers took advantage. They went down the court and had freshman Derek Simpson step up and be the unsung hero for the Scarlet Knights.
“He’s playing more and more minutes since Mawot [Mag] went down,” Pikiell said. “He’s playing better, and he’s confident. He was very confident today and he got it going.”
Simpson tied his career-high of 16 points tonight, the same total from an earlier matchup with the UMass Lowell River Hawks. But the biggest bucket from the young player came on an and-one layup to tie the game, giving Rutgers the lead for the rest of the game.
“I think we’ve been a really good team of finding who’s hot,” Pikiell said. “We had Cam Spencer against Wisconsin, and we got him involved. Today was [Simpson’s] day.”
The morale in the second half tanked, as the small, traveling student section of the Scarlet Knights was getting more into the game. With the gap slowly closing in, Rutgers went for the kill.
Penn State guard Cam Wynter, who had a team-high 18 points, felt a shift in the tone of the team. “I thought our spirit went down a little bit when the time adversity hit,” the senior said.
The offense had four attempts to make the game-tying shot, but three clanked off iron and the last attempt was swiped from Lundy’s hands. Shrewsberry knew what had happened when the clock hit triple zeroes.
“Steve Pikiell outcoached me and coached circles around me,” Shrewsberry said. “I have got to put our guys into a better position to be successful.”
Penn State hits the road to Evanston, Ill. to take on the No. 21 Northwestern Wildcats at 9 p.m.
Jonathan Draeger is a third-year broadcast journalism major. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.