While Rutgers brought its trademark defense on Tuesday night in a 65-45 win against Penn State, the key was limiting them to so many one shot possessions. That was due to the fact that the Scarlet Knights dominated on the boards and it helped to prevent the Nittany Lions from mounting a comeback.
PSU came into the game sixth nationally in shooting 39% from three-point range. However, they shot just 4 of 26 from deep. On a night they desperately needed to figure out other ways to score, RU kept the visitors off the glass in a major way.
“They’ve got multiple three-point shooters. You have to do a great job on the backboards,” explained Steve Pikiell. “The rebounds come off long, too, so everyone’s got to be involved.”
Rutgers owned a 43-26 rebounding advantage in the win. The key was that so many different players contributed to the +17 rebounding margin.
Cliff Omoruyi had his usual strong performance on the glass, finishing with 10 rebounds. He’s grabbed double digit boards in ten games this season including seven of his last nine. He’s provides reliability with his inside presence.
The balance that Rutgers displayed in so many players contributing on the glass really wore down Penn State and broke their will to a degree.
Both Mawot Mag and Caleb McConnell finished with seven rebounds. Despite an off shooting night, Cam Spencer was a factor in grabbing 6 rebounds. Paul Mulcahy added 5 rebounds and Aundre Hyatt finished with 4 boards. The group limited Penn State to just 3 offensive rebounds and zero second chance points.
“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,” explained Pikiell. “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.”
Rutgers is now No. 36 nationally in offensive rebounding rate at 34.1%. On the defensive glass. RU is limiting opponents to 26.7% which ranks No. 105. Penn State has not been strong rebounding all season. They’re ranked No. 361 in offensive rebounding rate this season at just 17.3%. On the defensive end PSU is much better in holding foes to just a 25.0% offensive rebounding rate. While they did hold the Scarlet Knights to seven offensive rebounds and below its season average, it was their inability to generate offense off the glass that really hurt them.
“They played grown-man basketball,” said Penn State head coach Micah Shrewsberry after the game.
For the season, Rutgers was 5th in the Big Ten entering this game in total rebounds per game and rebounding margin. Aside from Cliff Omoruyi averaging 10.2 rebounds per game, both Caleb McConnell and Mawot Mag are averaging 5.5 rebounds per contest. Aundre Hyatt is averaging 4.4 boards per game, while Paul Mulcahy 3.6 per contest and Cam Spencer with 3.2 rebounds.
Since Steve Pikiell came to Rutgers, the program’s identity has been based on defense and rebounding. After two subpar seasons in cleaning the glass on a consistent basis, despite continuing to win, the Scarlet Knights are much improved with rebounding due to so many players contributing.
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