After almost coming back in the second half, the Rutgers men's basketball team lost to Penn State 75-67. The Scarlet Knights (7-6, 3-6), after a 5-0 start, have since lost their past five games. They looked to get back on track with an away game at Bryce Jordan Center, but at the end of the second half the Nittany Lions (4-6, 1-5) were on top.
This victory snaps a five-game conference losing streak for Penn State and pushes Rutgers further down the Big Ten standings.
The Nittany Lions jumped ahead early and rode their momentum all the way to the finish line. After a first half where the Knights were only able to hit one of their seven three-point shots, Penn State was up 34-24.
Scoring efforts by senior guard Jacob Young were drowned out by an onslaught of the Nittany Lions' points and defensive stands. The Rutgers starting five committed 12 turnovers and created eight steals for Penn State.
The second half started much the same way. Toward the end of the game, the Knights' offense sparked to life, with strong drives by senior guard Geo Baker and a three-pointer from junior forward Ron Harper Jr. that cut the lead to just four points.
Rutgers would end up losing by eight, despite the team's efforts in the final eight minutes. The Knights struggled defensively in the second half, letting up 41 points, sealing the Penn State victory.
Prior to the game, head basketball coach Steve Pikiell said that he wasn’t concerned with the losing streak that caused Rutgers to drop out of the AP Top 25.
“We went through it last year, too, at this time,” Pikiell said in a conference. “Nobody remembers. We had stretches just like this. We’ve lost to all ranked teams, so we’re playing really good teams, and we got to play really well during the course of those games. We’ll regain it. That’s what I do. I love when people doubt.”
Pikiell remained optimistic about the team’s offensive struggles as well.
“Our percentages are way up from last year,” he said. "We talk a lot about shot selection. We talked a lot this week about getting to the free-throw line and getting some easy ones. When you’re not making shots, you got to figure out another way to generate some points."
The Knights will look to regroup and stop their five game losing streak against the Indiana Hoosiers at home this Sunday.
“We will keep moving forward,” Pikiell said. “We have a lot of the season still left. We are at the halfway mark, and we can do some really good things. I take a lot of pride in that our teams have always gotten better under me in sixteen years of (coaching). We will continue to get better, and we can. That’s the good part.”