PISCATAWAY, N.J. – The Scarlet Knights got back on track on Tuesday night against Penn State.
Rutgers defeated the Nittany Lions 65-45 behind a second half performance in which forward Aundre Hyatt dropped 12 points and went on his own 8-0 run. Hyatt finished the game with 14 points and shot 6-for-12 from the field. The defense was in prime form and held Penn State to a season-low in points and three-pointers made (four).
“(It was) a great environment today,” head coach Steve Pikiell said. “Thank you to our students that got here early. They were loud. Ton of respect for Penn State. Coach (Micah) Shrewsberry is doing an unbelievable job. They’ve got really good players who can really shoot the ball. They’re a unique team but I thought we did a really good job defending, right back to Rutgers basketball the way we defended for 40 minutes. Great team win. Everyone contributed, these guys were great. Aundre (Hyatt) had an unbelievable second half and Paul (Mulcahy) does what he does. Cliff (Omoruyi), for the entire game rebounding, (his) presence in the paint, whole nine yards. It was a Coaches vs. Cancer game today too. Amy Nolan’s our point person for that so I want to thank her for the work she did to make it even more special here. It’s just a good team win. We got a well-earned day off tomorrow for these guys.”
Junior center Clifford Omoruyi had another double-double performance with 16 points and ten rebounds. Omoruyi had 12 points in the first half and shot 6-for-7 from the field in the game. Omoruyi was a force on the defensive side with a team-high three blocked shots. Senior point guard Paul Mulcahy dropped 12 points, added six assists and six boards. Fifth-year wing Caleb McConnell had ten points, seven rebounds and one steal. Junior forward Mawot Mag finished with eight points and seven boards.
Rutgers jumped out to a 14-6 lead as PSU opened the game just 2-of-12 from the floor. RU stretched the lead into double-digits at 25-15, and led 32-24 at the break. RU limited PSU to its lowest first half output of the year, as the Scarlet Knights outscored the visitors 22-6 in the paint and limited them to 32 percent shooting in the opening stanza.
After starting the first half shooting just 4-of-18, the Nittany Lions opened the second half shooting 6-of-11 to cut it to a one-possession game at 39-36 RU. Rutgers responded back with a 12-2 run to take its largest lead at 51-38, spurred by multiple three-pointers from
Hyatt. Rutgers gave up zero second-chance points and dominated the paint with 34 points compared to PSU’s 18. Rutgers outrebounded Penn State 42-to-26.
Overall it was a 16-4 run to stretch the lead from 3 points to 15 points, and outscored PSU 33-21 in the second half for a 20-point win.
Rutgers will return to action on Sunday in Des Moines as the team takes on the Iowa Hawkeyes on the road at noon.
The victory for RU represented:
- A 8-2 mark in the past 10 games
- The fifth win over Penn State in the last 10 meetings (and third straight home win over PSU).
- 26-5 over the past two seasons at home
- Rutgers held Penn State to a season-low 45 points, the 13th different team RU has held to a season-low in scoring this season. 12 of the 14 opponents at Jersey Mike’s Arena have been held to a new season-low in points scored.
- That was the lowest output by a Big Ten opponent this year against RU, who also held Indiana (48 points) and Maryland (50 points) to 50 points or fewer in Big Ten play.
- Rutgers has now held 19 of its 20 opponents to date under their scoring average entering the game.
- RU has held 16 opponents to 10+ points below their average.
- Rutgers is now 14-1 when holding its opponent to 65 or fewer points and 6-0 when doing so in Big Ten games.
- PSU entered the game fifth nationally in three-pointers per game (10.9) and RU held them to a season-low four three-pointers.
- Rutgers held Penn State to 24 points in the first half, their lowest first half total of the season.
- Rutgers then held PSU to 21 points in the second half, their lowest point total in any half this season.
- The 45 points for Penn State represented the second-lowest total ever by a RU opponent in a Big Ten game, only surpassed by Michigan State’s 37 points on Jan. 28, 2021
- Over the past three seasons, the Scarlet Knights are 23-1 in Big Ten games when holding opponents to 65 points or less, including a 17-1 record over the past two seasons.
- Cliff Omoruyi had three blocks to pass Gregory Echenique for 15th all-time at RU (now 96 blocks for his career).
- Omoruyi (16 points, 10 rebounds) had his eighth double-double of the season.
Rutgers Head Coach Steve Pikiell
“I appreciate you guys for being here. (It was) a great environment today. Thank you to our students that got here early. They were loud. Ton of respect for Penn State. Coach Shrewsberry is doing an unbelievable job. They’ve got really good players who can really shoot the ball. They’re a unique team but I thought we did a really good job defending, right back to Rutgers basketball the way we defended for 40 minutes. Great team win. Everyone contributed, these guys were great. Aundre (Hyatt) had an unbelievable second half and Paul (Mulcahy) does what he does. Cliff (Omoruyi), for the entire game rebounding, (his) presence in the paint, whole nine yards. It was a Coaches vs. Cancer game today too. Amy Nolan’s our point person for that so I want to thank her for the work she did to make it even more special here. It’s just a good team win. We got a well-earned day off tomorrow for these guys.”
On what this game says about Rutgers:
“They were locked in. They were connected today. (Penn State) has made 18 threes in a game. They’ve got multiple three-point shooters. You have to do a great job on the backboards. The rebounds come off long, too, so everyone’s got to be involved. I liked how we got to the free throw line and I liked how we rebounded. I thought in the second half we really started to share the ball and get everybody involved. It was a good team win. They’re very good. Pleased with how we took care of a lot of different aspects of this game.”
On Aundre Hyatt’s second half surge being a pivotal moment in the game:
“Yeah, it really was and 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. I thought we did a good job getting Cliff involved in the first half – another double-double for him. And then when Aundre got it going, getting him involved.”
On Cliff Omoruyi’s offense and defense working together:
“Obviously Cliff is so important. Ithought he had more blocks than that. If you told me he had five or six, I would (not be surprised). He altered some shots, he was very active, he got good low-post position. I thought even a couple of the rebounds, he got some tough calls on him. I thought he was clean on some of those. And then he had to sit down and guard the three-point shooters, too. And you saw his athleticism and his ability to bend his knees and do that. He’s a good player, and we need him to play like that.”
On forcing opposing offensive to play at Rutgers’ pace:
“It’s Paul – it’s these guys. It’s Caleb McConnell, Cam (Spencer) and those guys. They’ve decided that they want to be really good on both ends of the floor, but especially on that defensive end and when they’re connected they’ve done a good job. They dictate what kind of season we have. The players are in charge and they were locked in. They were locked in today. They (Penn State) play at that pace anyway, so I knew it would be that kind of a game. We just did a good job being locked in, but it’s the players’ program.”
On Rutgers’ toughness inside:
“We were just able to get some extra shots on the offensive glass, get the ball down low. We’ve got good size at all our positions. Obviously when you get a guy that’s getting double-doubles every night that really helps your rebounding numbers. But everyone (rebounds). Paul rebounds, Caleb sticks his nose in there. We’ve got a lot of guys, so when you look at the team rebounds – Cam Spencer got six, Paul got five, Mawot got seven. So everyone chipped in, and you kind of need that.
On students being so involved with the program, in comparison to 2016:
“Well, I think these guys (the players) have made it that way. They are great in the community. I think they root for these guys. They’re great guys, they work hard and they represent the program the right way. I’m glad our students really have embraced them and they’re fun to watch. They share the ball. So I was really glad. I saw (the ticket line) wrapped around the diner there. It was unbelievable. It was awesome and I’m very appreciative. They make the place loud. Everyone – the cheerleaders, the band and all the people that are at the game are really involved. I love that they’re participants in the game. They’re not just sitting there watching it. They’re involved. That’s a great sign.”
On Rutgers’ 29 points inside the arc/paint, and how Cliff captains the offensive charge:
“Well, he did and Paul got some layups too down there. We’re good around the basket. But we take what we get, and I just thought we got good looks around the basket in this game – in the first half and we stayed with it. And I thought we got good looks, too, in the second half around the basket. I knew eventually threes would go in, they always seem to. Aundre stepped up and made some big ones for us and separated it. We’ve got good players around the basket, and we’ve got good size at every position, so we try to take advantage of that.”
Rutgers’ Cliff Omoruyi
On taking charge of Rutgers’ offense:
“My teammates, they believe in me, they share the ball, so I just had to face that person in the paint. They told me once I got in a deep position, to just go for the ball. My teammates believe in me, and I was able to do what I’ve got to do.”
Micah Shrewsberry- Penn State Head Coach
“First off, Congrats to Rutgers. They played great and they have been playing like this all year. 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”.
On facing Rutgers potent defense
“Yeah, they’re great defensively. 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”.
On why he felt team played soft
“I don’t even know what else to say. 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.”
On entering game 1-3 on the road
“I don’t think any of those three games had a factor on this one. We didn’t play Illinois or Michigan or any of those other teams on the road today. We played Rutgers. Rutgers played better than us tonight. Michigan played better than us when they beat us. There’s no factor in those other games on how we played tonight”.
On Jalen Pickett’s performance
“I thought he was fine. He’s been better. Caleb McConnell is a good defender, he was giving him problems. He’s doing his best, right now [Pickett] is carrying us for long stretches. People are doing a good job at taking Funk out, but [Pickett] is carrying us for long stretches. He’s been one of the best players in the league, and we need him to get to the free throw line”.
Coach on the impact that Rutgers defense had on the 4 for 26 from 3 point tonight
“Yeah we played a little soft. Some of those wide open shots we have to make them. 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 man. We have dudes that played a lot of basketball. A lot of basketball. You have to make an open shot on the road. I need more than 3 people to show up every game. I am going to tell you that right now. You look at the box score Jalen Pickett, Seth Lundy and Andrew Funk are giving us production and then its goose eggs down the rest of them. You can’t play 3 on 5 and win. I need someone to step up. I need someone to be a man and step us and give us something on the road.”
Coach on last year’s statement that Rutgers is a program that he wants to model his program after and if there is anyone lessons he can bring to his team
“Nope. Rutgers consistently plays hard. We don’t. We didn’t play hard. We didn’t play as hard as they do. And that is something that we can build upon. That is something we can build upon. They have an identity. Their defense is their identity right now. We are playing through our offense way too much. We need to get back to being a defensive team. We can score the ball when we do it. But when we get our heads down when we miss a shot or something is happening now we don’t want to guard. Now we don’t want to be tough and that isn’t who I am. That isn’t who I want to be and that isn’t what I want my program to be.”
Coach on the lack of fouls called on his team
“I can’t fix that. I’m done sending in clips. I have to coach my team. I just want Jalen Pickett to shoot more than 2 free throws a game. He is one of the best players in this league and doesn’t get fouled.”