Penn State snaps 6-game skid with win over Rutgers
UNIVERSITY PARK — It took Penn State 33 days to put together a 40-minute game and Nittany Lions coach Pat Chambers loved every minute of it.
D.J. Newbill scored 23 points and Brandon Taylor 16 to lead Penn State to a 79-51 win over Rutgers on Saturday for its first Big Ten victory of the season and first win since Dec. 22 after starting the season 12-1.
The Nittany Lions (13-7, 1-6), losers of six straight games, never trailed after taking a 16-15 lead with just over 10 minutes to play in the opening half. Their season-high 18 assists complemented 29-of-57 shooting.
The 28-point spread was Penn State’s largest margin of victory since December 2011 against Mount St. Mary’s (29) and largest in conference play since 1998 against Northwestern (38).
“I felt like the last four games were so close,” Chambers said. “I thought we’ve been really close to getting 40 minutes and we finally got there.”
Shep Garner added 13 points for Penn State, including three 3-pointers. Penn State shot 10 of 20 from 3-point range and its first 12 points of the game were on 3-pointers.
Penn State was shooting just 30 percent from 3-point range but Chambers said he wanted his players to keep firing.
“That’s the only way we’re going to be successful,” he said. “I want kids to put themselves out there, take big shots, make big shots, get to the free-throw line. That’s the way you have to play.”
Rutgers (10-11, 2-6) did not play that way. The Scarlet Knights were led by 19 points from Kadeem Jack, the only Rutgers player in double figures.
Rutgers shot just 10 of 27 in the second half after going 11 of 21 in the first half. The Knights were 3 of 13 from 3-point range.
“We didn’t give them a great tussle,” Rutgers coach Eddie Jordan said. “We shot ourselves in the foot in the first half and throughout the game. We didn’t handle anything well today.”
Penn State forced 16 Rutgers turnovers while committing just nine of its own, and also owned a 32-28 edge in rebounding.
Jordan could only search for positives.
“Sometimes there’s a silver lining,” he said. “I liked the way Kadeem behaved, I liked the way Myles (Mack) behaved. Sometimes that means a lot when you’re getting your tail kicked.
“Are you playing in a first-class manner? Are you classy about competing? Are you doing things right or are you being greedy and undisciplined?”
Penn State came out firing to start the second half with 3-pointers from Taylor and Garner. Garner’s 3 with just over a minute gone in the half put Penn State ahead 47-28 and gave the Nittany Lions more points than they scored in their 50-46 loss at Rutgers on Jan. 3.
Penn State continued its second-half fireworks, scoring 19 points in the opening 7:14 and limiting Rutgers to 3-of-11 shooting and gathering three Scarlet Knights turnovers in that span.
“It was definitely a good feeling to finally put together a 40-minute game,” Newbill said. “We played smart, we played physical and played Penn State basketball, which we haven’t done all year until today.”