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Rutgers overcomes 19 point deficit to stun Penn State: Rapid Reaction Video & Recap



Feb 26, 2023; University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; Rutgers Scarlet Knights guard Derek Simpson (0) dribbles the ball around Penn State Nittany Lions guard/forward Seth Lundy (1) during the second half at Bryce Jordan Center. Rutgers defeated Penn State 59-56. Mandatory Credit: Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

Rutgers men’s basketball was left for dead early in the second half on Sunday night against streaking Penn State. The Nittany Lions had won three in a row and were surging against the Scarlet Knights. After opening up the second half on a 9-0 run to lead RU 40-21 with just over 18 minutes to play, hope was slim. And yet Rutgers continued to grind and ultimately completed a stunning comeback to defeat PSU 59-56 in Happy Valley.

Defensively, Rutgers held PSU to just 37% shooting including only 8 of 29 from three for 28%. RU also held Penn State without a field goal for the final 9:15 of the game. It was a tremendous defensive effort by this team.

Derek Simpson was the hero as he stepped up in a major way on a night Paul Mulcahy was held scoreless and fouled out in 29 minutes played. The freshman scored the final 7 points of the first half and carried his assertive mentality into the second half. It infected the rest of the team in a good way as Rutgers rattled off 38 second half points on 50.0% shooting. However, with RU trailing 56-54 and just over a minute to play in the game, it was Simpson who drove past his defender, made the layup and drew the foul. He completed the three-point play the hard way and it was the winning play for Rutgers.

It was the change in mentality for this team in Simpson getting downhill and creating offense that flipped the game on its head. And it might just be a switch that Rutgers desperately needs moving forward as March approaches. Simpson finished with a team high 16 points on 6 of 14 shooting. He added 6 rebounds, 2 assists and 0 turnovers in 28 minutes.

Caleb McConnell perhaps played his best half of the season.  He was most responsible for holding star Jalen Pickett to zero points and zero shot attempts in the second half. McConnell also scored 9 points on 4 of 5 shooting.

“He’s terrific and he has been playing him so well,” head coach Steve Pikiell said after the game. “We tried to give him different looks. Caleb (McConnell) got in foul trouble guarding him and Paul Mulcahy had him and got into foul trouble. He causes a lot of matchup problems. We just tried to give him different looks and keep him off guard. You have to do that with a player who is in great rhythm like that. We were fortunate in the second half he didn’t get it going.”

Pikiell also said after the game that McConnell has been in the training room the last 48 hours. He is not playing at 100% health since suffering back spasms last weekend. McConnell finished with 12 points on 5 of 11 shooting, 4 rebounds, 4 assists and a steal.

Cam Spencer and Oskar Palmquist hit some big shots in the second half. Spencer finished with 13 points on 5 of 11 shooting and 6 rebound while Palmquist hit two big threes to help fuel the comeback. Cliff Omoruyi had 9 points and 13 rebounds.

Rutgers held a 10-0 advantage in second chance points despite only holding a 10-9 edge on the offensive glass. They only committed 4 turnovers while the bench outscored Penn State 22-11.

The Scarlet Knights earned their fourth quad 1 road victory and fourth Big Ten road win of the season.

The win marked the fourth straight season that Rutgers has won at least ten regular season Big Ten games as well as winning four league road games.

At 18-11 overall and 10-8 in Big Ten play, Rutgers has a tremendous opportunity to finish the regular season on a high note in the final week. They travel to last place Minnesota on Thursday with a chance to finish 5-5 on the road in league play. RU then hosts Northwestern next Sunday night at the RAC. Both games are huge for multiple reasons.

For full game highlights, postgame press conferences for both teams and more, click here.

Here is my rapid reaction video. It includes my analysis on the win, the impact on the shift in mentality, what it means moving forward and much more.

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