10 Thoughts on the Penn State Game

Rutgers (2-1) suffered quite possibly the worst loss of the Gary Waters era against Penn State (4-2) Wednesday night at the RAC, 83-80. The Scarlet Knights defense took the evening off and 3-point shooting could not compensate for the pathetic defensive effort against a Nittany Lion team that will likely finish at the bottom of the Big Ten. Here are ten thoughts on the Penn State game.


Rutgers (2-1) suffered quite possibly the worst loss of the Gary Waters era against Penn State (4-2) Wednesday night at the RAC, 83-80.  The Scarlet Knights defense took the evening off and 3-point shooting could not compensate for the pathetic defensive effort against a Nittany Lion team that will likely finish at the bottom of the Big Ten.  Rutgers used a barrage of 3-pointers to open an eight-point lead, 24-16.  However, the Nittany Lions responded with a barrage of their own to take a 40-36 lead.  After five more lead changes and two ties, the 1st Half ended in a 49-49 tie.  Penn State opened a five-point lead five minutes into the 2nd Half.   Rutgers tied the game three times but could never regain the lead.  Here are ten thoughts on the Penn State game. 

1.  It's Only Yale, Coach.  The Nittany Lions returned only three starters off a team that only went six players deep.  A team that Rutgers demolished 60-47 last year in Happy Valley, holding the Nittany Lions to 28% FG shooting.  Starting PG Ben Luber left the team early in the season.  Starting SG Marlon Smith played only 3 minutes before suffering a game-ending ankle injury.  Penn State played three freshmen, including two in the backcourt.  And Penn State shot 61% FG for the game and scored 83 points.  This game was not about Penn State playing well.  It was about Rutgers yet again overlooking an inferior opponent.  Something that has consistently occurred under Waters. 

2.  Interior Defense.   The Achilles heel of the Scarlet Knight team is their interior defense.  With no proven frontcourt players and a three-guard rotation, the interior defense was identified as a concern before the season.  Those concerns came to fruition in the opening games as Charlotte (47% FG) and St. Mary's (53% FG) hurt Rutgers inside.  Against a less formidable Nittany Lion team, the Scarlet Knights yielded 61% FG shooting overall after allowing 70% FG shooting in the 1st Half.  This was not a result of outstanding execution by Penn State.  It was about half-hearted, soft defense by Rutgers.  Ollie Bailey sat much of the 2nd Half because his defense wasn't acceptable. Rutgers is not going to win games by allowing opponents to shoot 60% from the field.  With the defense yielding 60% FG shooting, Rutgers could only compensate through some combination of (1) shooting well themselves, (2) making more 3PAs, (3) making more FTAs, (4) collecting more offensive rebounds, or (5) forcing more TOs. 

3.  Transition Defense.  Rutgers soft interior defense was compounded by lazy transition defense.  Penn State struggles to score in the halfcourt.  Head Coach Ed DeChellis has acknowledged that their halfcourt offense is terrible.  Rutgers made scoring easy for Pen State by allowing quick shots off transition.  These weren't necessarily fast break points.  Just open shots before the Scarlet Knights halfcourt defense was set.  Open shots that Penn State converted into points. 

4.  Dribble Penetration.   The Scarlet Knights made 53% of their FGAs in the 1st Half.  The shooting statistics were inflated by the unconscious 3-point shooting.  Rutgers managed 88% shooing beyond the 3-point arc but only 43% shooting inside the arc.  Although 3-point shooting carried the Rutgers offense, there seemed to be a good balance between perimeter shooting and dribble penetration.  The emphasis on dribble penetration contributed to very balanced scoring in the first half.  Dan Waterstradt scored six points.  Marquis Webb, Ollie Bailey, and Jimmie Inglis each added five points.  Juel Wiggan contributed four points.  Ricky Shields and Quincy Douby were "less is more" in the 1st Half when Rutgers had very balanced scoring.  But "more is less" in the 2nd Half when they took over half of Rutgers FGAs.  In the 2nd Half, Rutgers abandoned dribble penetration and settled for perimeter jump shots by Shields and Douby.  Without any balance in the offense, Rutgers shot 30% on FGAs in the 2nd Half.  And the game slipped away.  With the interior defense so vulnerable, Rutgers cannot afford to shoot 30%.  Rutgers must attack the basket off the dribble. 

5.  Perimeter Shooting.   Red-hot perimeter shooting carried the Scarlet Knight offense in the 1st Half.  Rutgers connected on 7 of 8 3PAs.  Douby made three.  Shields made three.  And Webb made one.  However, the Nittany Lions made 7 of 12 3PAs to match Rutgers.  In the 2nd Half, Rutgers went cold as the Scarlet Knights made only 3 of 12 3PAs.  Rutgers resorted to the 3-jack offense.  Poor shot selection contributed significantly to the struggles after halftime.  After halftime, Rutgers defended the perimeter better and Penn State made only one of six 3PAs).  Rutgers lost a golden opportunity and only outscored the Nittany Lions by two points.  Not enough to put much of a dent in a 61%-42% differential in FG shooting. 

6.  Free Throw Woes.  Rutgers converted only 12 of 21 (57%) possible points on FTAs, including a missed front end of a one-n-one.  Inglis converted only two of six FTAs.  Webb, Shields, and Douby made only 8 of 13 FTAs.  The Scarlet Knights, struggling to score after halftime, made only 6 of 10 FTAs in the final ten minutes.  Rutgers got into foul trouble early in the 2nd Half and Penn State was in the FT bonus with ten minutes remaining.  The Nittany Lions kept attacking Rutgers inside and earned 20 FTAs in the 2nd Half and made 15 (75%).  Penn State outscored Rutgers 19-12 from the FT line, which further compromised the FG shooting differential. 

7.  Offensive Rebounding Margin.  For the game, Rutgers attempted 23 more FGs than did Penn State.  Offensive rebounding was the biggest single contributor to this differential.  Rutgers grabbed 22 offensive rebounds to only 9 for Penn State.  The Scarlet Knights had a unsatisfactory 13-9 margin on Rutgers' defensive glass.  However, Rutgers collected 22 of 45 rebounds available on Penn State's defensive glass.  A dominating effort.  Webb (5), Inglis (4), Shields (3), and Waterstradt (3) were the biggest contributors on the offensive glass.  Nonetheless, the offensive rebounding put Rutgers in a position to offset Penn State's hot shooting.  An inability to convert offensive rebounds into second chance points negated the dominance on the offensive glass. 

8.  Turnover Margin.  DeChellis played two freshmen in his backcourt.  They played 77 of a possible 80 minutes.  Before a hostile, vocal crowd of 6,350.  The two combined to commit 11 of Penn State's 20 TOs.  However, Waters waited until the 2nd Half to turn the full court press loose on the young Lions.  The press contributed substantially to a 40-29 advantage in equivalent FGAs (FGAs plus half of the FTAs) in the 2nd Half.  The Scarlet Knights committed only 13 TOs.  The plus 7 TO differential helped to keep Rutgers within striking defense

9.  Marquis Webb.  Webb hasn't gotten off to a slow start this season.  A versatile, unselfish team player, Webb contributes in many ways.  He handles the ball and runs the offense.  He defends the opponent's best wing scorer.  He rebounds.  Webb is a complimentary scorer.  He has sacrificed his offense for the good of the team but he can score when needed.  Webb shot poorly in the first two games.  But, with Douby, Shields, and Bailey carrying the load, Webb wasn't needed to score a lot of points.  However, Webb was needed against Penn State.  The Nittany Lions blanketed Douby in the 2nd Half.  And Shields went cold.  And Bailey was benched.  Apparently, Penn State was daring Webb to shoot.  And he wouldn't.  Last night was a game where Marquis needed to step up.  He didn't. 

10.  Byron Joynes.  Is Joynes contributing out there?  In 18 minutes, Joynes contributed 2 points (1 of 3 FGAs), 4 rebounds, 2 blocks, an assist, a TO, and 4 fouls.  Waters has been quick to hook starters in the past.  Shields and Webb replaced Mike Tompson and Juel Wiggan, respectively, after only one game in each instance.  Joynes has been outplayed by Inglis in each of the three games this season.  Joynes isn't playing effective defense.  He isn't rebounding.  And he isn't scoring.  It's time for Waters to promote Joynes into the starting lineup.  If Inglis is struggling with his stamina, Waters should play him in four-minute bursts. 

Please send any comments to dwelch11@comcast.net. I welcome and appreciate your feedback. And please put "Rutgers" in the message header because I wouldn't want to miss your email in a sea of spam. In the meantime, if you would like to discuss the Penn State game or the upcoming Wisconsin game with other Rutgers fans, please visit our message board.

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