Piscataway, N.J. — As Rutgers began storming back on Penn State, coach Pat Chambers switched to zone. The move stifled Rutgers’ offense and sparked the Nittany Lions.
Shep Garner scored 20 points and dished out four assists and Brandon Taylor had a double-double with 17 points and 14 rebounds to lead Penn State past the Scarlet Knights 70-58 on Saturday.
“We practiced zone and we prepared to play zone and I think the zone kind of slowed them down a little bit,” Chambers said. “Enough for us to kind of take back the momentum.”
Donovan Jackson and Josh Reaves both had 12 points and six rebounds for Penn State (14-13, 5-9 Big Ten).
Jonathan Laurent led Rutgers (6-21, 0-14) with 19 points and 15 rebounds. The freshman guard tied his career-high in rebounds.
“Man, I really like him,” Chambers said. “Rangy, he’s long, attacks the glass, he’s got a nose for the basketball. I said that in the scouting report. I’ve never seen anything like it. Somehow the ball ends up in his hands.”
D.J. Forman had 10 points and six rebounds and Bishop Daniels had 13 points and four assists for Rutgers.
Penn State jumped out to a big lead, 23-8 after Taylor made a layup at the seven-minute mark.
Rutgers closed the half on a 14-5 run to make it 28-22 at the half. Justin Goode started the run at 6:14 on a layup assisted by Daniels. D.J. Foreman ended the run on a fast break dunk with 19 seconds remaining.
The Scarlet Knights began second half on a 9-3 run and Laurent tied up the game at 31 with 15:55 remaining after being fouled on a layup. Laurent missed his first free throw but hit the second. Laurent gave Rutgers its first lead of the game at 35-33 at 14:58 with two free throws after he was fouled on a dunk attempt.
“It felt good (taking the lead),” Laurent said. “This has been what we’ve been working for, so try to keep it up, but we just ran out of gas.”
Penn State tied it at 35 on a Taylor basket but Foreman quickly answered for Rutgers’ final lead of the game. The Nittany Lions went on a 15-0 run started by Taylor’s layup. Garner capped off the run at on a jumper to make it 50-37 at 10:34.
“We started taking quick shots on the offensive end and it led to runouts,” Garner said of Rutgers’ comeback. “On defense in the second half we just buckled down. We slowed the game and made them play at our tempo and we played defense. We locked down and we rebounded. That was the biggest thing. Our staple is defending and rebounding and that’s what we did today.”
Penn State out rebounded Rutgers 46-34. The Nittany Lions took their biggest lead of the game at 6:10 on a jumper by Donovan Jack assisted by Taylor that made it 63-46.
“It’s Groundhog Day for us,” Rutgers coach Eddie Jordan said of the losing. “Just over and over and over again.”