Penn State couldn’t overcome its worst offensive performance of the season Saturday night.
The Nittany Lions dropped their Big Ten men’s basketball matchup with Rutgers 50-46. It was a season-low scoring output for Penn State, which shot a season-worst 28.8 percent (15 for 52) from the field and hit 18.5 percent from 3-point range (5 for 27).
It took Penn State more than seven minutes to make its first field goal and the Nittany Lions managed just 19 points on 19.2 percent shooting in the first half. Rutgers held the lead the entire second half despite going just 4 for 25 from the field (16 percent).
“Obviously this is a tough loss,” Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said. “Wisconsin was a tough loss. But you know, you’ve got to continue to get better. You’ve got to move on. You’ve have to find ways to manufacture some points. I’m looking at some of the statistics here — very ugly. And let’s give Rutgers credit for that.”
Penn State’s D.J. Newbill scored a game-high 14 points, but went 4 for 17 from the floor. Rutgers’ Kadeem Jack had 12 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Scarlet Knights to their first Big Ten victory.
The Scarlet Knights held off the Nittany Lions — who came into the game 7-0 in games decided by six or fewer points — down the stretch.
Penn State (12-3, 0-2) pulled within 45-44 with just over two minutes to play. Newbill drove and finished off the glass to cut the deficit to two points. Shep Garner then stripped Rutgers’ Myles Mack on the perimeter, John Johnson picked up the loose ball and drew a foul on the other end.
Johnson hit one free throw with 2:17 to go.
Rutgers’ Jack answered with a finish through a foul to push the Scarlet Knights ahead 47-44. He missed the free throw, and the teams came up empty on each of their ensuing possessions.
Newbill then received a lob in the paint and scored to cut the deficit back to one, 47-46. Penn State took a timeout with 29.2 seconds left.
After forcing a jump ball with full-court pressure, Penn State fouled to send Mack to the line with 27 seconds left. The Scarlet Knight guard knocked down both to push his team’s lead to three points.
Newbill came off a screen at the top of the key and hoisted a contested 3-pointer that rolled off the rim. Jack hit one free throw to seal the win for Rutgers.
The Scarlet Knights survived after managing just 20 points in an ugly final 20 minutes similar to Penn State’s first half. Rutgers went 11 for 19 from the free-throw line in the second half.
The Nittany Lions went 5 for 26 from the field — 1 for 12 from beyond the arc — in the first half.
Penn State missed its first eight field-goal attempts, including six 3-pointers. Newbill missed long on the sixth 3-point attempt, an air ball, with Penn State trailing 11-1.
A missed layup followed before Johnson connected on a 3-pointer on the right wing for the Nittany Lions’ first field goal with 12:29 to play in the half.
Still, Penn State’s cold start continued. Penn State trailed 30-19 at the break.
“(Penn State) took a lot of early, quick shots and they missed,” Rutgers coach Eddie Jordan said. “They could have made them and shot us out of the building, but they missed and we fed off of that. But again, our defense was really, really good.”
The Nittany Lions scored 11 of their 19 points in the half off turnovers. Penn State finished with seven turnovers in the first 20 minutes and turned it over 12 times in the game.
Rutgers outrebounded Penn State 44-36 and corralled 13 offensive rebounds.
“It’s life on the road in the Big Ten,” Chambers said. “Nothing’s going to come easy. They wanted it more — they made the winning plays down the stretch. Those offensive rebounds were killers. They were absolute killers.”