Balanced Lions top Rutgers
UNIVERSITY PARK (AP) — Sam Sessoms scored 17 points to lead four in double figures as Penn State never trailed and cruised to a 66-49 victory over Rutgers on Tuesday night at Bryce Jordan Center.
John Harrar added 16 points and Jalen Pickett had 15 for Penn State (8-6, 3-3 Big Ten), which has won three of four during a nine-game stretch following a 22-day layoff.
Seth Lundy added 10 points and Greg Lee had 12 rebounds for the Nittany Lions.
Rutgers (9-6, 3-2) had a four-game winning streak end after shooting 34% (19 of 56) from the floor with 15 turnovers. They had won three of four by double digits, including a 28-point win on 58% shooting against Nebraska last Saturday.
Clifford Omoruyi had 12 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Scarlet Knights.
After Rutgers got within 56-46 with three minutes left, Pickett sank a step-back jumper with the shot clock winding down. Harrar grabbed an offensive rebound on Penn State’s next possession and Sessoms converted a reverse layup as the Nittany Lions closed on a 10-3 run.
The Nittany Lions snapped Rutgers’ four-game winning streak as the Penn State defense held the visitors 21 points below their season scoring average of 70.4 ppg.
Sessoms scored the 1,500th point of his career while shooting a blistering 70 percent (7-for-10) from the field and a perfect 3-for-3 from beyond the arc, while also adding six assists and three rebounds.
It was a slow start for both teams with just a 4-2 scoreline in favor of the Nittany Lions at the first media timeout of the contest.
Penn State then went on a 17-4 run over a seven-minute span to take a convincing 21-8 lead and force Rutgers to call timeout with 8:13 remaining in the opening stanza.
The Scarlet Knights were able to go on a 11-2 run out of their called timeout to crawl back within four, 23-19, before back-to-back points from Pickett and Sessoms and a scoring drought from the visitors kept the Nittany Lions ahead at the break, 27-19.
It was a back-and-forth first part of the second half with nearly identical scores in the stanza through the under-8 media timeout to keep Penn State ahead by nine, 45-36.
The Nittany Lions made 4-of-5 field goals over a two-minute span to take their largest lead of the game, 53-39, with just under five minutes left in regulation.
Penn State closed the game with consistent play on both sides of the ball and points from the charity stripe, including an 10-3 run in the final two minutes, for the 66-49 victory.
The Penn State defense held Rutgers to just 19 points in the first half, the second time this season holding an opponent under 20 points in a half after limiting Oregon State to 17 points in the first half during Thanksgiving week in Florida.
It marks the first time the Nittany Lions have held a Big Ten opponent under 20 points in a half since also doing so against Rutgers in Piscataway during the 2018-19 season.
The 49 total points for Rutgers also marks the first time Penn State has held a Big Ten opponent under 50 points in regulation since holding Indiana to 49 during the 2019-20 season.
Penn State has now held eight of its last 11 opponents at least 10 points below their season scoring average.
Junior Seth Lundy was tasked with guarding Rutgers’ leading scorer Ron Harper Jr., and Lundy and the Nittany Lion defense held Harper Jr. to just seven points.
Senior Greg Lee finished with a game-high 12 rebounds, his first double-digit rebound mark as a Nittany Lion.
Junior Jevonnie Scott made his Penn State debut off the bench in the first half. He scored his first points as a Nittany Lion in the second half.
Rutgers stays on the road in a matchup with Maryland on Saturday. Penn State plays at 16th-ranked Ohio State on Sunday.