For the first time since mid-December, the Penn State men’s basketball team is on a win streak.
The Nittany Lions used a 16-point run from late in the first half into the opening minutes of the second half in a 60-43 victory over Rutgers on Saturday afternoon at the Bryce Jordan Center.
Tony Carr’s 16 points and 15 each from Mike Watkins and Josh Reaves paced the Nittany Lions (15-8, 5-5 Big Ten) in their annual game to benefit the Penn State IFC Panhellenic Dance Marathon, with all student ticket sales donated to Thon. The game drew a season-high 13,677 fans.
The Nittany Lions, two conference wins short of the season high in coach Patrick Chambers’ seven years, last won two straight Dec. 17 against George Mason and Dec. 19 against Binghamton.
The Scarlet Knights (12-11, 2-8), ranked last in the Big Ten in shooting, hit 31 percent from the floor and were outrebounded 42-27, including pulling down just two offensive boards.
Penn State trailed 23-21 before launching into the game-turning run with 3:31 left in the half. A Carr jumper put the Lions into the lead for good, and a three-point play by Josh Reaves capped the burst for a 14-point lead.
Rutgers sliced the margin back to seven, but another 7-0 Penn State run gave it a lead that would never again drop below double digits.
“Playing Rutgers is extremely tough,” Chambers told the Associated Press after the game. “They make you grind and they make it ugly, and for the first half they did.”
Issa Thiam’s 12 points led the Knights.
Player of the Game
Watkins was a force with 15 points, 19 rebounds and three blocks. The career-high rebound total was the most for a Lion in a game since Aaron Johnson had three 20-plus-rebound games in 2005.
In addition to 15 points from Reaves — he has hit double digits in every game since returning from a four-game suspension for academic reasons — he also picked up four of the team’s seven steals.
“He wasn’t going to let us lose that game,” Chambers said.
In all, Rutgers had 16 turnovers, which turned into 23 Penn State points.
Penn State travels to No. 6 Michigan State on Wednesday.