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Penn State basketball falls to Rutgers, continues midseason slump

On Tuesday night, Penn State basketball lost by 20 points on the road at No. 23 Rutgers.

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Jan 24, 2023; Piscataway, New Jersey, USA; Rutgers Scarlet Knights center Clifford Omoruyi (11) battles to the basket against Penn State Nittany Lions forward Kebba Njie (3) during the second half at Jersey Mike's Arena. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

On Tuesday, Penn State (13-7, 4-5) continued its midseason slump, falling to Rutgers (14-6, 6-3) 65-45. The loss is Penn State’s fourth in the last six games.

The Nittany Lions were looking for a Quad 1 road win to boost their postseason resume and move into a tie for third place in the Big Ten standings. But Penn State could not overcome its worst shooting night of the season.

After the 20-point loss, Micah Shrewsberry’s squad will be in a must-win situation once again this weekend.

Not Their Knight 

Penn State struggled to establish a rhythm on either side of the court. 

Tuesday was the Nittany Lions’ worst shooting performance of the season. Penn State started cold, shooting 20% from the field in the first 10 minutes of the game. It didn’t get much better from there. The Lions shot a pitiful 4-26 (15%) from beyond the arc as part of a 33% outing from the field.

Jalen Pickett got hot to start the second half, going 5-6 out of halftime to cut the deficit to three with 13 minutes remaining. However, Penn State was outscored 26-9 the rest of the way, and this one was no contest by the closing stretch.

Pickett, Seth Lundy, and Andrew Funk combined for 39 of Penn State’s points, while the rest of the team combined for six.

On the defensive side of the ball, Penn State had no answer for Rutgers on the inside. Rutgers outscored the Nittany Lions 34-18 in the paint. The Scarlet Knight’s Clifford Omoruyi led the way with 12 points in the first half en route to a 16-point scoring night on 6-7 shooting.

Penn State was also woefully outmatched on the glass, losing the rebound battle 43-26. Shrewsberry called the performance “soft” in postgame availability, saying the Nittany Lions need to find a more prideful defense.

There’s no other way to put it – this one was ugly.

Backs against the Wall (again) 

Falling in the NCAA NET rankings, Shrewsberry and the Nittany Lions find themselves in a critical game Sunday at home when they take on Michigan (11-8, 5-3).

The Wolverines bested Penn State when the two teams met early this month in Ann Arbor, winning 79-69. Although they were able to make it a one-possession game in the final minutes, the Nittany Lions struggled from beyond the arc and could not stop the barrage of Wolverine runs throughout the evening.

We’ll see if the friendly confines of the Bryce Jordan Center will treat Penn State any better in round two. The Nittany Lions are running out of opportunities to make their way into the NCAA tournament. Of the 11 remaining games, all but two are against either Quad 1 or Quad 2 opponents. This includes a rematch against top-ranked Purdue that is looming on the schedule next week.

While unlikely, if there was ever a time for the Nittany Lions to go on a winning streak, it would be now.  

Matt is a Co-owner and Editor in Chief of Basic Blues Nation. Launched in 2022, Basic Blues Nation is one of the fastest-growing websites covering all Penn State athletics, with over 3.5 million readers in 2023. Matt is also a credentialed member of the Penn State football beat, and is a member of the Football Writers Association of America.

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