The Rutgers men's basketball team suffered a 61-46 loss to Penn State on Wednesday night at Jersey Mike's Arena on Livingston campus. The Scarlet Knights (10-10, 2-7) committed 20 turnovers and shot 5.9 percent from three-point range in the loss.
Despite shooting a Big Ten-worst 53.8 percent from the restricted area this season, Rutgers' early game plan was to drive to the basket and bully its way inside. Senior forward Aundre Hyatt got the game started by doing just that, forcing his way inside and banking in a layup.
The Knights were able to drive in the paint relatively easily in the first 4 minutes, but missed a couple of open layups, only gaining a 6-3 lead going into the first media timeout.
After the timeout, both teams got sloppy with their passing, resulting in multiple turnovers. Despite its poor passing, Rutgers led 12-7 just 9 minutes into the contest.
The game would continue to get sloppier as the first half progressed. Freshman guard Gavin Griffiths drove in and converted a layup approximately halfway through the first half to give the Knights a 14-7 lead, but after that field goal, they went on an approximately 9-minute field goal drought.
In those 9 minutes, the Nittany Lions (10-11, 4-6) struck with a 19 to 4 scoring run. Griffiths would tap in a missed layup from senior center Clifford Omoruyi with 58 seconds left in the first half to break the extended field goal drought, but the damage had been done as Penn State had a 26-20 lead. Sophomore guard Derek Simpson would give Rutgers some momentum by making four straight free throws, but the Nittany Lions entered halftime with a 26-24 lead.
The Knights committed 13 turnovers while shooting 33.3 percent from the field, 0-7 from beyond the arc, 61.5 percent from the free-throw line and 45 percent from layups in the first half. Despite these numbers, Penn State only had a 2-point lead because they committed six turnovers of their own and shot just 34.5 percent from the field, 16.7 percent from three-point range and 57.1 percent from the charity stripe.
D’Marco Dunn led the Nittany Lions with 11 first-half points and backcourt teammate Ace Baldwin Jr. was close behind him with 7 points. For Rutgers, Griffiths was a lone bright spot, leading the team with 6 points and throwing down a highlight dunk.
Nothing got better in the second half for the Knights. Rutgers continued its sloppy play as graduate student guard Austin Williams set an illegal screen and picked up a foul just 7 seconds into the second half. Penn State would slowly grow its lead throughout the second half, as they continued to force more turnovers and keep the Knights uncomfortable on offense.
Rutgers would fail to ever get into any offensive rhythm as the Nittany Lions pulled away to get the 15-point lead.
The Knights committed 20 turnovers in the contest, the most since 2019. Rutgers shot 34 percent from the field, 5.9 percent from three-point range and 50 percent from the free-throw line. The Knights also were only able to grab nine rebounds in the second half, as Penn State outrebounded them by 16 more rebounds in the second half.
Baldwin Jr. led the Nittany Lions with 15 points and seven assists. Griffiths led Rutgers with 11 points.
"I just don't think we were confident today," Simpson said on the shooting struggles.
Senior forward Mawot Mag and Hyatt played just 15 minutes in the loss.
"I was playing guards that can make plays," Pikiell said on his decision to play Mag and Hyatt less. "They're a different kind of team, and I wanted guys that could go downhill and take advantage of how they play."
The Knights will now get back on the road to face Michigan on Saturday at the Crisler Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The game will tip-off at 4 p.m. and be broadcast on the Big Ten Network and 88.7 WRSU-FM.
"Today obviously, we were bad in all those areas," Pikiell said after the game. "And so, if you add the turnovers, you're not going to score a lot of points. So, we never really gave ourselves a chance. We can't do that."
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