Penn State basketball blew a 19-point second half lead and quite possibly its NCAA Tournament chances in its 59-56 loss to Rutgers Sunday night at the Bryce Jordan Center.
Penn State basketball didn’t make a field goal in the last nine minutes, and now faces an uphill battle to make it to the “Big Dance” with two regular season games left plus the NCAA Tournament.
— Penn State Men’s Basketball (@PennStateMBB) February 27, 2023
The teams got off to a slow start. At the first media timeout, Rutgers led 5-4.
Penn State caught fire after that, taking a 14-5 lead by the next media timeout.
The hot streak continued. By the U8 media timeout, Penn State had opened up a 25-9 lead and gone on a 24-4 run that lasted 10 minutes.
Rutgers was also hindered by foul trouble. Guard Caleb McConnell had three first-half fouls.
Rutgers didn’t fade away completely in the first half. The team ended the first half on a 7-0 run, with Derek Simpson hitting a shot at the buzzer to cut the deficit to 10. Simpson led Rutgers in first-half scoring with nine points. He finished with a team-high 16.
Penn State’s Jalen Pickett led all scorers with 11 points in the first half and teammate Cam Wynter was right behind with an even 10. Wynter ended up tying for the game-high with 16.
Penn State held Rutgers to just over 27 percent shooting and 2-for-10 from 3-point land.
In the second half, Penn State started hot, going on a 9-0 run. A 3-pointer and 3-point play by Wynter followed by a 3 from Andrew Funk gave Penn State a 40-21 advantage. Rutgers then went on a 8-2 run to cut the deficit to 15 by the first media timeout of the half.
Rutgers continued to chip away, and by the U12 timeout, Penn State’s lead was down to nine. For the next several minutes, Rutgers continued to stay with Penn State and trailed by eight at the under eight timeout. After that short break, Rutgers continued to push, and Penn State continued to struggle, in the midst of a field goal drought that never ended.
Rutgers took its first lead since being up 5-4 with 1:21 left on a 3-point play by Simpson, and never lost it.
Penn State still has work to do to make the NVAA Tournament. It has two games left— one on the road, and one at the Bryce Jordan Center. The first of those two is on the first night of March at Northwestern.