Tue, 02 Mar 2021

Rutgers looks to halt slide at Penn State

Field Level Media
21 Jan 2021, 05:55 GMT+10

Rutgers has lost its top-25 ranking and tumbled in the Big Ten standings, but Scarlet Knights coach Steve Pikiell remains optimistic.

Winless since Dec. 29, Rutgers looks to break a four-game losing streak Thursday night when it visits Penn State in University Park, Pa.

The Scarlet Knights (7-5, 3-5) began this season with six straight wins, all while ranked. They climbed to No. 11 after beating Illinois on Dec. 20 and were ranked 14th when the skid began with a 77-75 loss to Iowa on Jan. 2.

Rutgers dropped out of the top 25 after double-digit losses to Michigan State and Ohio State when it allowed the Spartans to shoot 47 percent and the Buckeyes to shoot 51 percent. The defense was improved Friday night when the Scarlet Knights held Wisconsin to 35.2 percent from the field in a 60-54 loss.

The problem on Friday was offense as the Scarlet Knights shot 37.3 percent, went 2 of 19 from 3-point range and committed 13 turnovers.

Jacob Young scored 19 points for the second straight game, but leading scorer Ron Harper was held to four points on 2-of-13 shooting and is shooting 32.7 percent (17 of 52) and 5 of 21 from 3-point range during the skid.

"We're really confident moving into these next 12 games," Pikiell said. "Learned a lot of lessons, got guys healthy for the first time, went through a lot of obstacles. Now we look forward to what the next 12 bring and see how we can end the season the right way."

Penn State (3-6, 0-5) had to postpone four games from Jan. 3-12 due to COVID-19 issues and is playing its third game since the pause.

After returning with an 80-72 loss at Purdue on Sunday, the Nittany Lions shot just 33.9 percent in a 79-65 loss to No. 22 Illinois when they trailed by as many as 22 on Tuesday night.

"I keep saying it, I'm not trying to use it as an excuse, but we haven't played a lot," Penn State interim coach Jim Ferry said. "We're still trying to figure out who we are as a team and you can't just do that in practice all the time, so we're still in that mode. We're getting better. I know it didn't look like it tonight, but we are getting better and we will continue to get better."

Penn State is led by Myreon Jones, who averages 15.9 points and scored 20 points Tuesday. Jones has scored at least 20 points in four straight games and is shooting 49.2 percent during that stretch (30 of 61).

--Field Level Media

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