Penn State will be searching for its sixth consecutive victory when it travels to Rutgers for a Big Ten matchup on Tuesday in Piscataway, N.J.
The No. 20-ranked Nittany Lions, who continue to be ranked for the first time since 1996, earned a hard-fought 89-86 win over then-No. 23 Iowa on Saturday in Philadelphia.
Sophomore guard Izaiah Brockington poured in a career-best 23 points while Lamar Stevens and Curtis Jones Jr. added 16 apiece for surging Penn State (12-2, 2-1 Big Ten).
Brockington sparked the Nittany Lions with 15 points in the second half. His previous career high of 20 came on Nov. 25, 2017, against TCU when he played for St. Bonaventure.
“I knew I had to come and definitely try to be a little more aggressive and just try to halt the run that Iowa was making at the time,” Brockington said. “So you know, there’s definitely just an extra level of aggressiveness.”
Penn State has won in a variety of ways this season. On Saturday, it started slowly on offense, but stayed close and came out on top with some tenacious defense down the stretch.
The experienced Nittany Lions didn’t seem fazed against a very good team.
“We might not have had the best first half but we were able to find a way,” Penn State head coach Pat Chambers said. “Our mental toughness and mental condition, I felt really shined through when we’re down seven, and then down six felt like we didn’t panic, and that’s what this group is doing.”
Penn State is allowing opponents to hit just 39.3 percent from the field. Senior forward Mike Watkins adds rim protection, swatting 3.50 shots per game to rank fifth in the country.
Rutgers, one of the most surprising teams in the country, is also looking for a sixth straight win.
The Scarlet Knights (11-3, 2-1) picked up a 79-62 victory last Friday at Nebraska. Caleb McConnell scored 20 points while Myles Johnson added 18 points and 14 rebounds. Ron Harper Jr. also contributed a double-double of 11 points and 10 rebounds.
“We like to really share the game, see our box score, and see that a lot of guys get shots up,” Rutgers head coach Steve Pikiell said. “We wanted to attack and share the game, and that’s what we did.”
Rutgers remains undefeated this season (9-0) when shooting a higher percentage than its opponent. In addition, the Scarlet Knights continued to dominate the glass, outrebounding their opponent in 13 of 14 games.
Rutgers played without starting guard Geo Baker, who suffered a left thumb injury in practice prior to the Nebraska game. Baker, averaging 11.5 points with a team-high 52 assists, is expected to miss this battle against Penn State.
McConnell stepped in and hit all eight shots on his way to a season-high in points.
“Losing one of our leaders due to an injury, I knew I needed to step up,” McConnell said. “I had to control the pace of the game and the team, make sure the team got good shots. We just had to slow the game down, share the ball, and get it inside. We took good shots.”
–Field Level Media