{{ timeAgo('2023-01-25 09:25:16 -0600') }} basketball Edit

4 keys to RU Hoops latest win over PSU | 'They played grown-man basketball'

The Rutgers men’s basketball team handled Penn State on Tuesday night at Jersey Mike’s Arena to the tune of a 65-45 victory.

The win brought Rutgers’ record up to 14-6 overall and 6-3 in the Big Ten. As of now Rutgers is in sole possession of second place in the league. The Scarlet Knights are also ranked No. 16 in the NET, No. 17 on KenPom, and No. 12 per T-Rank. Rutgers rebounded from a loss last week at Michigan State, something the team has done all season long.

Here are several keys from the win for Scarlet Knights.

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Bully ball

Penn State isn’t the biggest team out there, but the Scarlet Knights annihilated the Nittany Lions inside. Rutgers out-rebounded PSU 43-26 and tallied seven offensive boards to the visitor’s three. PSU had no second chance points and just 18 points in the paint. Rutgers scored 34 points from up close and led for 38:02 of the 40 minutes. Cliff Omoruyi was a monster early on, and he finished with 16 points (6-for-7 shooting) with 10 points for a double-double, his eighth of the season, to go along with three blocks. Rutgers was credited with five blocks in the game. Paul Mulcahy posted up defenders quite a bit and scored 12 points with five rebounds and six assists.

After the game, Penn State coach Micah Shrewsberry ripped into his guys and boasted about Rutgers.

“First off, Congrats to Rutgers. They played great and they have been playing like this all year,” he said. “You can't play softly in this league if you want to win basketball games. It's a 100% fact, we played softly and lost today. …They played grown-man basketball. No matter who was on our team, they took them to the post and they scored. At some point in time you have to stand up. At some point in time you've got to have some pride, and we don't have any pride. I told them that, exactly what I told you I told them at halftime exactly this in the locker room: We need some pride. We need some prideful defenders, and that's on me. I don't know how I let them become this soft defensively as a team. Right now we're (ranked) in the low-80s defensively and dropping quickly. You want to win in this league, you can't play soft. We played soft and we got our asses whooped.”

Defense, defense, defense

To no surprise, RU was stout on the defensive end of the court. Penn State scored a season-low 45 points, the 13th team RU has held to a new low this season. Twelve of the 14 opponents that come to Piscataway leave with a new low. The 45 points were also the second least points Rutgers allowed in a Big Ten game, only surpassing Michigan State’s 37 almost two years ago on Jan. 28, 2021. Rutgers has also held Indiana (48) and Maryland (50) to 50 or less points, and it has kept 19 of 20 opponents so far under their scoring average including 16 teams 10-plus or more points below.

Penn State also entered the contest making 10.9 3-pointers per game, yet the Nittany Lions shot just 4-for-26, also a season low. They missed a few open looks, but Rutgers made them work for shots time and time again.

Rutgers is No. 3 in adjusted defensive efficiency in the country.

“Yeah, they're great defensively,” Shrewsberry said. “They're really good and knew what they wanted to do. They took us out of some things we wanted to do, we didn't respond well, we missed open shots, I'm mainly disappointed in how we played defensively. We played soft and I thought they got whatever they wanted. …Some of those wide open shots we have to make. This is a make or miss league. Maybe we were a little tight because the crowd was on top of us and yelling. And maybe because those guys are flying around defensively that when you finally have an open shot you just can't make it. They have a huge factor in it. But some of it has to be us. We have dudes that have played a lot of basketball. A lot of basketball. You have to make an open shot on the road.”

Aundre Hyatt

If you want to win college basketball games, you need to get production from the bench. Hyatt provided that spark and at a key moment, too. The 6-foot-6 guard/forward had scored two points total the last two games in close to 40 minutes. Tuesday, he went 6-for-12 from the field and finished with 14 points, four rebounds, two assists, a block, and a steal. Penn State had just cut Rutgers’ 10-point advantage down to three points before Hyatt surged ahead with his own 8-0 run to make it a 13-point game. Rutgers was able to balloon the score from then. He made a dunk on a good seal box out from Omoruyi, and then drained a pair of 3-pointers.

The 14 points -- 12 after halftime -- was the most he’s scored in a Big Ten game and second most in a Rutgers uniform. Hyatt’s spark was the turning point

“Aundre had an unbelievable second half, and …it really was,” Rutgers head coach Steve Pikiell said. “I told him at halftime he's going to have a great second half and we really believe in him. I think he's one of the best sixth men in the country. We need that from him. He was bouncy, he teed it up when he was open. He just did a really good job and then the guys found him during that stretch. I love as a team when we embrace someone else's success. Guys were saying in the huddle 'get Aundre the ball.' It's always a good sign when other players are recognizing and then trying to get him the basketball.”

Minor decisions that turned out to be major

Something as simple as calling a timeout or putting a player in the game at a certain time can ultimately go a long way in coming out on top. Andrew Funk hit a 3-pointer to make it a 12-point game with 3:45 to go, but he had just made two free throws a minute earlier as well. Rutgers thwarted any chance of a late comeback with a timeout after his triple. That would have gotten Penn State going. The key matchup of the game was RU’s Caleb McConnell and PSU’s Jalen Pickett, two former high school teammates. Pickett has been one of the best all-around players in the nation this season. With McConnell on the bench due to three fouls, Pickett turned it up scoring eight points making it 39-36. McConnell came back in and Pickett made just one other basket later in the game with Rutgers owning a double digit lead. McConnell blocked a Pickett layup attempt with 5:32 to go.

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Quick note: With the way Rutgers defends, imagine a team with highly rated players committed or signed in F Gavin Griffiths (five-star 2023), G Jamichael Davis (3-star 2023), G Dellquan Warren (four-star, 2024), and F Airious Bailey (five-star, 2024) scoring the ball at will as well. Sheesh.

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Follow Chris Nalwasky on Twitter @ChrisNalwasky.

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