Penn State Men’s Basketball vs. Rutgers Game Preview
After starting the new year with wins over Indiana and Northwestern, Penn State saw its win streak snapped on Saturday at the hands of No. 3 Purdue, 74-67.
Over the weekend, the Nittany Lions went toe-to-toe with one of the best teams in the country. A second-half surge that was capped off by a Greg Lee three put Penn State up 65-64, but the Boilermakers responded with a 10-2 run in the final 3:48 to silence the Bryce Jordan Center crowd.
Penn State once again got a strong performance from guard Jalen Pickett who had 21 points and dished out 10 assists. The former Siena Saint is currently averaging 18 points per game and 4.5 assists per game in Big Ten play, the only player in the conference doing so.
The blue and white also picked up strong performances from the forwards in Lee and John Harrar, however, Jalani White was a pleasant surprise against the Boilermakers.
White was a perfect 4-4 from the field and scored a season-high nine points. Coach Micah Shrewsberry has seen the growth in White and understands the importance of keeping the senior forward confident in his scoring ability.
“[White] is getting a good feel for our offense and where his shots and opportunities to attack are going to come from,” Shrewsberry said. “I want him to be comfortable shooting and I think he’s getting there, the more shots he makes, the more people have to come out and play him.”
White stepped up in place of Seth Lundy, the junior notched 10 points but had trouble finding his rhythm going 3-10 from the floor and 2-7 from beyond the arc. Despite the offensive struggle, Lundy was great on the other side of the ball guarding Purdue’s Jaden Ivey most the of game.
Shrewsberry has been impressed by the effort that Lundy has put in on the defensive side of the ball, noting that if he wants to make it to the next level he’ll have to be a two-way player.
The Nittany Lions now turn their attention to Rutgers for when they face off in the annual THON game Tuesday at 6:30 p.m.
“When you take a job you start to learn things synonymous with your school with your university, and THON was one of the first things I heard about,” Shrewsberry said. “So I’m excited for this game.”
As for the Scarlet Knights, they are off to a good start and on the season they sit at 9-5 and 3-1 in conference play. They picked up a marquee win over then-No. 1 Purdue, 70-68, Ron Harper Jr. hit a half-court buzzer beater to knock off the Boilermakers.
Over the weekend, Rutgers extended its win streak to four games with a dominating win over Nebraska, 93-65. The Scarlet Knights hounding defense was on display forcing 14 turnovers which led to 25 points off of turnovers.
That stellar defense resulted in a 13 point lead heading into halftime and continued into the second half as Rutgers outscored the Cornhuskers by 15 en route to its victory.
Going into its contest against the Nittany Lions, Rutgers is holding opponents to 65.4 points per game and is forcing 12.1 turnovers a game, while nabbing 7.4 steals per game.
Offensively, the Scarlet Knights have three players averaging double-digit points per contest: Geo Baker, Clifford Omoruyi and the aforementioned Harper Jr..
Harper Jr., son of Ron Harper who spent 15 years in the NBA, has been steadily improving since his freshman and is off to his best start this year. Averaging a team-high 16.3 points per game and 7.1 rebounds per game. He dropped 29 points in Rutgers win over Nebraska, it was his second straight 20-plus point outing.
Shrewsberry understands the importance of slowing down a player like Harper Jr. and making sure Penn State closes out of him on the perimeter.
“We’re going to guard him as hard as possible, hopefully he needs to shot it,” Shrewsberry said. “He needs to have more field goal attempts than points, if we’re doing that, then we’re probably doing a pretty good job.”
Meanwhile, Baker is averaging 11.9 points per game and is coming off a season-high 27-point performance a pair of games ago in the Scarlet Knights win over Michigan. As for Omoruyi, the 6-11 sophomore is scoring 11.6 points per contest and snagging a team-high 7.2 boards per game.
On paper these two teams are eerily similar, Penn State won last year’s meeting at home, 75-67, and is on a two-game win streak against Rutgers, both contests taking place in Happy Valley.
The Nittany Lions have the slight edge due to their success at home, while the Scarlet Knights still search for their first victory on the road.
Prediction: Penn State 68, Rutgers 63
Matthew Scalzo is a second-year majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Contributors
Second Year / Broadcast Journalism