Penn State Basketball drops another road game but, unlike the others, this one was not too close. The offense could just never get going as Penn State falls to Rutgers 65-45.
Rutgers jumped out to the early lead thanks to the strong play of junior big man Clifford Omoruyi. Omoruyi finished the game with 16 points and 10 rebounds, but he got 10 of those points within the first 10 mins giving Rutgers the 16-9 lead at the under 12 media timeout. The margin would stay there for the rest of the first half thanks to some hard drives and free throws for Rutgers and some tough mid-range shots from the Penn State side. Rutgers went into the half with an 8-point edge, the score being 32-24
In the second half things appeared to be looking up. Thanks to a strong opening from Kebba Njie and Jalen Pickett Penn State was able to cut the Rutgers lead down to 3 with about 14 minutes left and held string at that range until the 12-minute mark. A couple tough shots from McConnell and Omoruyi started the run and then junior forward Aundre Hyatt broke the game open. He went on a personal 8-2 run that included a big dunk and two huge threes to push the Rutgers lead to 13 with about 8 minutes left. From there Penn State would only make 2 shots the rest of the way as Rutgers coasted to an easy 20-point victory.
The story of the game is the game is easily the three-point shooting from the Nittany Lions. The Penn State squad, which was shooting 39% from three while hitting 11 a game coming into tonight, was held to just 4 threes on a dreadful 15% from deep. For better and for worse the three-point shot is the focal point of the Penn State offense, so they will never be able to win a game with shooting numbers like this. It was not as if the Penn State offense was lost, however.
Credit to Rutgers they played a fantastic defensive game especially deterring Funk from getting looks from deep, but a good majority of these three-point shots were open shots from shooters Penn State has trusted all year. Myles Dread, for example, is never one to take contested shots and he got a number of open looks but ended the game with 0 points on 0-5 shooting from three.
Penn State Basketball and everyone that follows the team knows they are much better shooters than this and this likely will not be a recurring issue. However, that does not mean this game did not supply its fair share of worries. Number one on that list would be the recent play of senior transfer Camren Wynter. Cam came to Penn State from Drexel with the pedigree of a big-time scorer. We have seen that at times throughout the season like against Clemson when he scored 26 points to lead the team, but recently the aggression has disappeared. He is only taken more than 7 shots 1 time in the last 5 games. He needs to be more aggressive in finding his spots because he is one of the only ones in the offense that can generate their own offense.
Penn State’s inability to guard bigs was once again a big problem tonight. Freshman Kebba Njie has yet to adjust to the speed and strength of his opponents attacking him in the low post. He is the only rotation player that matches up physically with opposing centers so when he is off the team is just too small to bang inside despite how hard guys like Evan Mahaffey and Myles Dread try when tasked with that responsibility. Penn State will have to be creative in how they treat interior defense in the future because the Big Ten does not lack talented big men.
One positive we can take from tonight is the continued play, and playing time, of freshman guard Kanye Clary. He only tailed 2 points and 1 assist tonight, but he continues to show that he is one of the only players on the team that can consistently get to the rim. This will be very important for Penn State as teams continue to adjust to their offense by leaving more defenders on islands and committing much less help on drives.
Penn State Basketball will try to get back on track at home against the Michigan Wolverines this Sunday, January 29th at noon and televised on the Big Ten Network.