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Penn State Basketball: Nittany Lions Stumble Against Not-Your-Average Rutgers

by on January 07, 2020 10:00 PM

Anyone who has watched Big Ten basketball and Penn State basketball for more than just the past two months knew that Tuesday night's game against Rutgers had the potential to be exactly what it was: A Nittany Lion 72-61 loss in front of an energized crowd and against a Scarlet Knights team that is the best the program has fielded in decades.

Penn State did not shoot the ball particularly well in either half but still managed a 10-point first half lead that was quickly erased in large part due to the aforementioned cold shooting, and Rutgers rising from an even worse slump to gain some positive momentum at home.

Rutgers was feisty. Now 12-3 on the year the Scarlet Knights are momentarily second in the Big Ten at 3-1 and seemingly far more equipped than in seasons past. By the half they trailed by just five points, and a hot start to the second half erased that lead before Penn State could blink. The Scarlet Knights outworked the Nittany Lions on the glass and turned Penn State's defensive stops into second-chance points.

If not for a 10-point outburst by Myreon Jones the Nittany Lions may have taken the knockout blow far sooner, but the spirited sophomore arrived just in time to keep Penn State within reach on his way to a 21 point outing. It was Rutgers though that found a closing offense, ballooning its margin beyond Penn State's reach en route to the final score. In short, this game was everything longtime fans and onlookers knew it could be.

In the big picture Tuesday's loss was the garden variety defeat that is bound to happen in a Big Ten conference that appears to be 12-teams deep this year. Rutgers is good and Penn State was coming off an emotional (and hot) victory against Iowa just two days prior. While Penn State's long relationship with losing streaks makes any defeat an eyebrow raiser, Tuesday's seemed more a confluence of events rather than a larger issue, especially with Penn State's track record this season of far more good basketball than bad.

Of course the Nittany Lions are not without blame. Myles Dread, who continues to be a very solid defender, also continues to struggle to find his shot. Mike Watkins, who scored seven baskets in the first half, only attempted one shot, a miss, in the second. Penn State by and large was outworked on the defensive end of the floor, a rarity for the program, and was lacking energy on the offensive end.

It bears mentioning somewhere on the public record that Penn State, and Lamar Stevens in particular, have not gotten the benefit of a favorable whistle as of late. Stevens has a very good case to make that a significant percentage of his fouls have been less than favorable and while one would like the rules of the game to be the same for everyone, that he has not gotten the benefit of the doubt in nearly any situation where it might warrant it. Pat Chambers has a legitimate gripe with officiating relative to his senior forward this season, if not in general.

Penn State will rest up for a Saturday afternoon meeting with Wisconsin, a chance to put Tuesday's loss in the past.

Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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