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Penn State basketball falls apart late, losing to Rutgers

On Sunday night, the Penn State Nittany Lions blew a 19 point lead against the Scarlet Knights at the BJC.



Penn State basketball
Feb 1, 2023; West Lafayette, Indiana, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions guard Jalen Pickett (22) reacts during the second half against the Purdue Boilermakers at Mackey Arena. The Boilermakers won 80 to 60. Mandatory Credit: Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

UNIVERSITY PARK, PA — On Sunday, the Penn State Nittany Lions (17-12, 8-10 Big Ten) took on the Rutgers Scarlet Knights (18-11, 10-8 Big Ten) in one of the most important basketball games at the Bryce-Jordan Center in State College, PA. With its back against the wall and tournament hopes on the line, Penn State basketball lost a close one against the quad two Scarlet Knights.

Penn State basketball mauls Rutgers in first half

The Scarlet Knights won the game’s opening tip, though neither team managed to score throughout the first two minutes of the game. Rutgers got on the board first with a long 3-ball and managed to add to their lead on the following possession, but Penn State basketball kept it close with a series of baskets. A Kebba Njie dunk made it a 5-4 ballgame before the Scarlet Knights took a timeout with 15:31 remaining in the half.

Right out of the timeout, Penn State guard Cameron Wynter gave the Nittany Lions a two-point lead with a long 3-pointer — Rutgers ran out of time on their next trip down the floor, and Penn State regained possession. Wynter pushed Penn State’s lead to 10-5 on his next trip down the floor with another 3-pointer; he attempted a third in a row, yet it rang off the front iron.

Penn State’s lead grew to seven behind a Jalen Pickett fadeaway — Rutgers failed to respond, and on PSU’s next trip down the court, Pickett added another two. Rutgers was forced to take a timeout with 11:12 remaining in the half; Penn State basketball held a 14-5 lead after scoring 10 unanswered points. Out of the timeout, Penn State laid on the gas with another nine points — the Nittany Lions’ run improved to 19-2, and Rutgers was forced to take another timeout.

Out of the timeout, Rutgers brought the game within 14 before freshman guard Kanye Clary pushed Penn State’s lead back to 16. The Lions collected a defensive rebound, took it down the court, and Kebba Njie was fouled under the basket right before a TV break. After the break ended, Njie drilled one of his two free throws, which gave Penn State a 26-9 lead over the Scarlet knights with 7:30 remaining.

The two teams traded defensive possessions for a while until the game’s scoring drought was ended by Rutgers, who landed a layup to make the score 26-11 in PSU’s favor. Cam Wynter responded on Penn State’s next trip down the floor, though Rutgers buried a 3-ball immediately after, making the score 28-14. Jalen Pickett missed his free throw out of the break, but he sunk a 3-pointer the next time he touched the ball, pushing Penn State’s lead to 31-14. Rutgers pieced together a small run before the half ended, making the halftime score Penn State 31, Rutgers 21.

First half stats

  • Penn State basketball shot 48.1% from the floor.
  • Nittany Lions were led in points by Jalen Pickett (11) and Cam Wynter (10) in the first half.
  • PSU shot 30.8% from behind the 3-point arc.
  • Penn State and Rutgers both had 32 possessions, and both collected 21 rebounds in the first.

Gritty second half sees Rutgers pull past Penn State basketball

Right out of the break, Penn State basketball scored nine unanswered before Rutgers chipped away at the Lions’ lead. Penn State basketball took a 19-point lead and forced a Scarlet Knight timeout with the score at 42-23. The Knights immediately buried a 3-pointer and a free throw to make it a 42-27 game at the media timeout with 16:00 remaining in the game.

Out of the break, Rutgers sunk a three to bring the game within 12 — it seemed as if the Nittany Lions were close to blowing the game wide open, yet for some reason, couldn’t. A pair of Scarlet Knight free throws made it a 10-point game once again before super senior forward Michael Henn sunk a three to restore Penn State’s lead to 13. Rutgers brought it back down to 10 on their following possession. Just seconds later, Henn buried another three, which was answered by Rutgers with an ally-oop to keep the score within 11 points.

With 12:00 remaining, Cam Spencer made it a nine-point game, though the Lions still led 48-39. Another Rutgers basket made it a seven-point game, though Penn State’s Seth Lundy pushed the Nittany Lion lead back to ten with a trio of free throws — Penn State basketball led 51-41 with ten minutes remaining.

With 7:30 remaining, Rutgers cut the Penn State lead to eight — a minute later, the Penn State lead was again reduced. With 6:00 remaining, the Nittany Lions lead was six. A shot clock violation gave Rutgers the ball back with 5:30 left to play, though Penn State basketball managed a stop and sunk a free throw to make it a 54-47 game with 4:42 remaining.

As the game wound down, Rutgers had clawed their way back within five points. With 2:28 remaining, Rutgers tied the game at 54-54. With 1:31 remaining, Seth Lundy made an amazing stop and was fouled on the offensive end — Lundy sunk both, giving Penn State basketball a 56-54 advantage. Rutgers retook the lead just seconds later with 1:24 left on the clock. The Scarlet Knights would add a layup with 32 seconds remaining to extend the lead to three.

The Nittany Lions had two possessions down the stretch. With a Pickett turnover on the first possession and three missed three-pointers on the second, Penn State’s collapse was sealed. Final score from the BJC, Rutgers 59, Penn State 56.

Second half stats

  • Penn State basketball led by as many as 19 points and held the lead for 32:35 seconds of game time. Meanwhile, Rutgers only led for four minutes the entire game, and its largest lead was the margin of victory.
  • The Lions didn’t score from the field over the final nine minutes of the game, and made only one of their last 18 field goals.
  • The Nittany Lions shot an abysmal 28% from behind the arc, including a combined 1-18 from Lundy and Andrew Funk. Overall, Funk and Lundy went 2-23 from the field.
  • Cam Wynter was Penn State’s leading scorer, with 16 points on 6-9 shooting. Jalen Pickett had 11 points on 5-9 shooting.

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