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Penn State Opponent Preview: Rutgers

How They Are Doing So Far:

Nobody expected much out of Rutgers this season, but this is a group that has played relatively well. The Scarlet Knights are just 9-9 and they will fall well below .500 before this season is done, but Coach Steve Pikiell’s team can pull off a few more surprises along the way. There really is not a bad loss on the schedule and this group has done a good job of beating the team’s they should beat. As far as Big Ten play, there are not many teams Rutgers should beat, but they have already beaten Ohio State and Nebraska.

 

Last Time Out:

That Nebraska victory came on Monday night when Rutgers slipped past the Cornhuskers 76-69. It was a tight game nearly all the way through, but the Scarlet Knights pulled away in the end. The surprising star of the game was freshman Montez Mathis, who tallied career highs with 20 points and nine rebounds. Sophomore Geo Baker added 16 points, his highest total since November. Myles Johnson, a 6-10 center, tied his season high with 13 points and added a season high 11 rebounds.

 

Who To Watch:

All of those season and career highs are largely due to the injury of Eugene Omoruyi. Omoruyi has missed the last three games with a knee injury and prior to that was leading Rutgers with 14.1 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. He remains out indefinitely and in the meantime Rutgers will have to get production out of Shaq Carter and Myles Johnson in order to have a dangerous presence in the frontcourt. Carter, a 6-9 junior, has seen his minutes increase with Omoruyi’s injury. In the last five games he has averaged 8.4 points and 6.6 rebounds. Johnson has been less consistent and is more prone to foul trouble, but like he did against Nebraska, Johnson can have some very productive outings.

 

Who Else To Watch:

Players on the perimeter have stepped up too. Geo Baker has been turned into the leader of this team. The sophomore point guard is averaging 13.1 points and 4.1 assists and is the team’s top outside shooting threat. Baker has made 36.4 percent of his 110 attempts from beyond the arc. As a threat to shoot the ball from outside, Baker forces the opposition to guard him tight on the perimeter. And that is when he will attack the basket and finish himself or find an open teammate. Montez Mathis is often that open teammate. The freshman has not been a great shooter so far this year, but he is very good at attacking the basket and has been playing his best basketball of the year over the last few games.

 

Prediction:

This should be Penn State’s best opportunity to date to win a Big Ten game. The Nittany Lions are 0-8 in conference play, but they have been able to hang around against some good teams. Most recently they went to Minnesota and lost by just one point. If Penn State can play like that at home against Rutgers, they should finally be able to get into the win column.

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