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Penn State Basketball

‘Tonight was the 1st Step’: Penn State Wins on the Road, D’Marco Dunn Answers the Bell

Photo by Penn State Athletics: D’Marco Dunn

Penn State coach Mike Rhoades loves road games. 

Because Penn State came into the last day of January 0-8 away from the Bryce Jordan Center, that might seem a little strange. 

But Rhoades feels that teams grow the closest when they’re on the road.

On Wednesday night, Rhoades’ first Penn State team was without arguably its best player in Kanye Clary, who was out due to injury. 18.4 points per game is hard to replace, and even with Clary playing Penn State’s first 20 games, the team only won nine of them, none of which came on the road.

So how did Penn State plan for life without Clary?

“Well make no excuses, number one,” Rhoades said in his postgame presser. “There’s no excuses. It’s a 40-minute game. Find a way to win. You have to step up for your teammates because we’re already down one guy… there’s no secret formula. People might say there’s a special potion. You have to get guys to step up and show up. These guys have to play basketball. That’s hard because the other team wants to win, too.”

Although Penn State’s opponent, Rutgers, came in barely-par 10-9 overall and sub-par 2-6 in the Big Ten, it had home-court advantage, and a good one at that. 

So what did Rhoades think of the 8,000-seat, 46-year-old Jersey Mike’s Arena, known to most as the “RAC?”

“I loved it,” Rhoades said. “This was really cool. I said it to everybody. It’s like everybody’s on top of you, it goes straight up. It’s a basketball arena. It’s not a recreation center that you fill with this other stuff. That’s a basketball arena, and I thought it was really cool. It was a lot of fun.

Who knows how much fun Rhoades would have had if Penn State didn’t leave Piscataway with a 61-46 win?

A big reason for that win was Clary’s replacement, D’Marco Dunn.

Despite not being starter, the North Carolina transfer had come up big for Penn State before.

In the team’s Big Ten-opening win over Ohio State at the Bryce Jordan Center, Penn State came back from an 18-point second-half deficit.

Dunn did his part, scoing 16 points in 20 minutes. 

Penn State’s next conference win came against Michigan at Philadelphia’s famous Palestra. Dunn did his part there, too, scoring 13 points. In the next five games, the most points Dunn scored was six. But he bounced back in a big way against Rutgers, playing probably his best game at Penn State on a night where the team needed him more than it had all season. 

Dunn played 22 minutes, leaving a little before the end of the game due to cramps, Rhoades said. 

He scored 14 points, three off his season high, and grabbed a season-high seven rebounds. 

Dunn also added a block and three steals, which help to the 21 turnovers Rutgers ended the night with. 

As one would expect, Rhoades was “really proud,” of Dunn’s performance. 

“I told him ‘You have to be aggressive,” Rhoades said. “You’ll make some mistakes and play through it because you’re going to play a lot.'” And I was just really proud of him. He went to the rack a couple of times, so you could tell he was into the game. I thought that was huge. That got him going, and he made a couple of nice shots. I thought his defense was really good.

“He’s a talented offensive player. He just has to continue to make the game easier, which is what you do with (increased) experience. Continue to mature.”

For Rhoades, Dunn, who has the rest of this year and next year left for elgibility, has a bright future ahead of him.

“I have high hopes for him the rest of this year and next year because I think he’s a talented player and he’s a great kid as well,” Rhoades said. “He’s just a great kid, and he’s trying, he’s learning. He’s working really hard, and it’s great to see him get rewarded for that tonight.”

At 10-11 overall and 4-6 in the Big Ten, Rhoades knows theres a lot of work to be done. 

But the team had to get a win on the road at some point, and it did Wednesday night in Piscataway

“For us, where we want to take the program, where I want to put our mark on Penn State basketball on the floor is you’re on the road in the Big Ten, you have to win,” Rhoades said. “Tonight was the first step.”

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