Penn State Shoots Down Rutgers

Nittany Lions grab first Big Ten win by blowing out the Scarlet Knight at the BJC.

Pat Chambers wanted more.

His Penn State squad led Rutgers 41-28 at the half at the Jordan Center Saturday afternoon, and the Scarlet Knights had not shown the slightest sign of being capable of making a game of it in the final 20 minutes.

But Chambers, whose team stood at 0-6 in the Big Ten, demanded more.

“I wanted to win the second half,” he said.

PSU did so, and in dominating fashion. Playing like a team unleashing six games worth of frustration, the Nittany Lions (13-7, 1-6) hammered Rutgers (10-11, 2-6) 79-51.

The 28-point difference marked Penn State's largest margin of victory over a Big Ten foe since whipping Wisconsin by 29 in 1996 and the first home win of 20 or more points against a league opponent since beating Purdue by 20 in 2012.

“It was really important,” he said of pouring it on in the second half. “We've had a tendency -- over my time here -- to relax and play the score instead of competing and blowing it out.”

Not this time. The Lions opened the second half with 3-pointers from Brandon Taylor and Shep Garner, and then got a conventional 3-point play from D.J. Newbill that had the crowd rocking.

Shep Garner

The 9-0 run made it 50-28 a minute and a half into the final period. It was 52-30 with 18:08 showing after the teams swapped jumpers, which was notable because PSU could have gone the rest of the game without scoring and STILL won.

Rutgers, playing without power forward Junior Etou (disciplinary suspension), rolled over.

“We didn't handle anything well tonight,” said Scarlet Knight coach Eddie Jordan, who apparently was so dazed he forgot the game was played in the middle of the day.

Of all the things that went right for Penn State, the most important was its effective 3-point shooting. The Lions were 10 of 20 in the game, and the long ball gave them confidence early on.

PSU's first four buckets were all triples. The Lions made 7 of 12 from the arc in the first half in grabbing a 41-28 lead at intermission. This from a team that went into the game ranked 13th in the Big Ten in 3-point shooting percentage (30).

“Your offense always looks good when the ball is going in the basket,” Chambers said. “We've been taking the same shots the last three games.”

Chambers admitted that the hot shooting indirectly had a positive impact on other areas of the Lions' game. They had twice as many assists (18) as turnovers (9). They forced RU into 16 turnovers, and scored a season-high 21 points off of them.

“When you make shots, your defense is going to be better because there's energy,” he said. “The fans are going crazy.”

To put that halftime score (41-28) in perspective, realize that Penn State scored a total of 46 points in the head-scratching four-point loss to Rutgers in Piscataway Jan. 3.

“It definitely was a good feeling to finally put 40 minutes together,” said Newbill, who had a game-high 23 points and for once got plenty of help from his teammates. “We played together, we played smart, we played physical. We played Penn State basketball for 40 minutes, which we hadn't done all year until today.”

The lone negative of the day was when Taylor crumpled to the floor with an injured right knee just past the midway point of the second half. After being examined by the trainer and doctor, he returned to the bench on crutches and with the knee heavily wrapped. But he was seen smiling while talking to teammates and even the officials.

“I don't have an official update,” Chambers said. “I know he banged knees [with someone]. … “[He is] in great spirits, very positive.”

The entire team was after finally getting the first Big Ten win. Even though it all came together against his program, Jordan was gracious in crediting the Lions and Chambers for never giving up on the season.

“There was no drop-off coming to play us,” Jordan said. “Pat got them in the right frame of mind. They came out like gangbusters. They were gunslingers today, in a good way.”

Taylor Made

Though he only played 26 minutes due to the injury, this may have been Taylor's best game as a Nittany Lion. The junior forward had 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting. He also had six rebounds and four assists.

Garner also reached double figures with 13 points. He made 3 of 4 3-pointers.

More of Moore

Redshirt freshman center Julian Moore continues to get … well … more playing time. His 22 minutes were a career high and 13 more than his previous Big Ten high.

He made one of two shots for two points, but also had five rebounds.

His increased PT is coming at the expense of struggling 7-footer Jordan Dickerson, whose two minutes Saturday included an air ball hook shot from a few feet away from the basket.

Knight Moves

Athletic forward Kadeem Jack was the only Knight to find his groove offensively, making 8 of 12 shots for 19 points. … Jordan declined to give details on why Etou was suspended.

Touch of Gray

Penn State wore its alternate gray uniforms for the first time in Big Ten play this season. We'll go out on a limb and predict we're going to see more of them in the coming weeks.

Remember When?

About 30 former Penn State players and managers were honored at halftime.

The loudest rounds of applause were reserved for 1990s guards Pete Lisicky and Nate Althouse. But it should be noted that Althouse had a bit of an unfair advantage. He is currently the athletic director at nearby Penns Valley High School, and a couple of hundred folks from Penns Valley were there as part of the occasion.

Chambers was happy to see the former players back in town.

“I think it's important to create that bond, and to let the guys know to please come back,” he said. “You're welcomed back, you're part of this, you're part of our family.”

Next Up…

…for the Nittany Lions is a Wednesday home game vs. Minnesota. It tips at 7 p.m. and can be seen on BTN. The Gophers beat Illinois (79-71) at home Saturday and at 2-6 in the conference remain just ahead and Rutgers (2-7) , Penn State (1-6) and Northwestern (1-5, at Maryland Sunday) in the battle to avoid last place in the conference.

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