PSU torches Rutgers from deep in rout
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Myles Mack and the Rutgers men’s basketball team starters sat on the bench with their shoulders slumped, waiting for it all to mercifully end.
They knew life in the Big Ten wasn’t going to be easy this season.
A 79-51 thrashing by Penn State on Saturday at the Bryce Jordan Center reiterated another harsh reality.
“I guess it’s hard to win away in the Big Ten,” Mack, a senior guard, said outside the visiting team’s locker room with a black hoodie drooped over his head. “We just didn’t come out and execute the right way — on the offensive or the defensive end ... We just didn’t come out to play.”
The Nittany Lions (13-7, 1-6), previously losers of their last six games, shot 10-of-20 from 3-point range and led by as many as 31 points in the Knights’ (10-11, 2-6) fourth straight loss.
It was a completely different script from Jan. 3 in Piscataway, when Rutgers limited Penn State to 5-of-26 shooting from deep for the program’s first Big Ten win.
Guard D.J. Newbill was at the heart of the disparity. The Big Ten’s leading scorer drained 8-of-12 shots from the 3-point line, the paint and everywhere in between for a game-high 23 points, also converting all five of his free throws.
Rutgers remains winless on the road in conference play in four tries.
“We didn’t really give them a great tussle. We shot ourselves in the foot again in the first half, throughout the game,” said head coach Eddie Jordan. “But give them credit. They got into us, they made shots, they ran their offense. Newbill was very good, and we just didn’t get a handle on their pick and roll schemes.”
Rutgers’ offense wasn’t nearly as effective.
Early on, the Knights found space for senior Kadeem Jack to operate within Penn State’s 2-3 zone. The senior forward drained his first five field goals with nice touch on turnarounds in the lane, as Rutgers jumped out to quick leads of 6-0 and 15-12.
But no other Knight finished in double figures to supplement Jack’s 19 points, and Rutgers’ ball security unraveled.
With 10:23 remaining in the first half, sophomore wing Kerwin Okoro threw away a long inbounds pass from the baseline intended for Mack near midcourt. A fastbreak layup gave Penn State a 16-15 lead that never wavered.
Minutes away, Newbill stole the ball from freshman guard Mike Williams off the dribble for another easy bucket.
Rutgers’ eight first-half turnovers — mostly on traps and deflections across half-court — spotted the Nittany Lions 13 points on easy run-outs for a 41-28 halftime advantage.
“They got it going. They hit a couple of threes back-to-back, and that’s where they started pulling away,” Jack said. “We started turning the ball over, missed a lot of free throw opportunities and that’s where they started getting us.”
Momentum never swung back into Rutgers’ favor in the second half.
Penn State kick-started the final 20 minutes with a 9-0 run on two 3-pointers and a 3-point play after Newbill scooped in a fastbreak layup.
Too often the Knights’ communication broke down on screens as they tried to switch defensive alignments and contest shots from beyond the arc.
“I think the energy was there. The execution wasn’t,” Mack said. “Our matchups weren’t there on the defensive end.”
Mack found himself in foul trouble down the stretch, compromising Rutgers’ lost cause even more.
He went to the bench with 3:35 remaining amid the shellacking. He joined Jack, who sat down for good a minute and a half before that.
There wasn’t much to say for the Knights, who witnessed firsthand how desperate a team they had already beaten was for their first conference victory.
“We’re disappointed, more than anything,” Jack said. “We obviously have the capabilities to beat this team.”
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