Lions fall to 0-9 in Big Ten

UNIVERSITY PARK — The recipe for beating Penn State has become simple. Keep it close and allow the Lions to make mistakes late in the game. That’s exactly what Rutgers did on Saturday to beat the Lions, 64-60.

“We need everybody to step up,” Lamar Stevens, who recorded a game-high 21 points, said. “Everybody is mad that we lost and everybody wants to win.”

Rutgers was a prime target for Penn State’s first win of the season for many reasons.

The Knights are having a mediocre year. Penn State had almost an entire week to prepare. With an 0-8 start to conference play, the Lions would be salivating at a chance to play the Knights.

The matchup was also the THON game, which brings in the biggest crowd of the year for Penn State’s student-led dance marathon that raises money for families affected by pediatric cancer. The announced attendance was more than 13,000.

“I’m so thankful for the support that we got,” Stevens said.

It was the perfect storm that failed to make landfall.

“I hope and pray that as athletes and competitors that even though you’re in this situation you want to feel that winning feeling again,” coach Patrick Chambers said. “If you don’t want to get this bad taste out of your mouth you shouldn’t be playing sports.”

Both offenses were bad for most of the first half as neither team was over 30 percent from the field. Until there were just over six minutes left in the first half, no Penn State player had made more than one shot.

Offensive efficiency picked up toward the end of the half and Rutgers took a 30-26 into the break.

Rutgers guard Geo Baker was the leader of the Knights offense, recording 11 points by halftime and finishing with a team-high 20 points.

“Geo had a good swagger today,” Steve Pikiell said. “He really ran our team today.”

Not long after the halftime break, Rutgers went into a drought, missing nine shots in a row over a five-minute period. The Lions didn’t take advantage of the cold offense, having a slim two-point lead by the end of it.

The teams traded leads and droughts throughout the rest of the contest.

With five minutes left and a three point deficit, the Lions had a big advantage. Rutgers had an aggressive defense throughout the second half, and the result was a double-bonus with a lot of time left.

But it wasn’t free throw shots that would determine the win. In fact, no stat sticks out as a reason why Penn State can’t get a win. When it’s crunch time, the Lions don’t have a player that takes over or a coach that directs them to a victory.

With a 63-60 deficit in the final seconds of the contest, a miss on the charity stripe by Baker in the final seconds gave the Lions a glimmer of hope. Bolton did a step back in the corner and missed, sending the team into a 0-9 Big Ten record.

“We all want to get the team over the hump,” Chambers said.

The Lions will play Purdue at home on Thursday.

RUTGERS (10-9): Carter 1-6 1-1 3, Doorson 1-2 0-0 2, Mathis 4-15 1-2 11, Baker 7-15 4-6 20, Harper 2-4 1-2 6, Omoruyi 2-9 7-8 11, Johnson 1-2 0-0 2, McConnell 1-4 1-2 4, Kiss 2-3 0-0 5. Totals 21-60 15-21 64.

PENN ST. (7-13): Stevens 7-16 6-8 21, Watkins 3-6 1-4 7, Reaves 2-7 0-0 5, Wheeler 0-0 0-0 0, Dread 4-14 0-0 11, Buttrick 0-1 0-0 0, Harrar 0-1 3-4 3, McCloskey 1-2 0-0 2, Bolton 3-9 4-4 11, Jones 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 20-57 14-20 60.

Halftime–Rutgers 30-26. 3-Point Goals–Rutgers 7-16 (Mathis 2-4, Baker 2-6, Harper 1-1, McConnell 1-2, Kiss 1-2, Omoruyi 0-1), Penn St. 6-24 (Dread 3-10, Reaves 1-3, Stevens 1-4, Bolton 1-4, McCloskey 0-1, Buttrick 0-1, Jones 0-1). Fouled Out–Reaves. Rebounds–Rutgers 37 (Carter 7), Penn St. 32 (Watkins 9). Assists–Rutgers 9 (Baker 3), Penn St. 9 (Wheeler 4). Total Fouls–Rutgers 21, Penn St. 19. A–13,366 (15,261).