Nittany Lion men roll past Rutgers despite illness taking over team
PISCAWAY, N.J. — With six or seven guys battling a stomach flu for the past four days — including usual starters Shep Garner and Mike Watkins and key reserve Terrence Samuel — Penn State coach Patrick Chambers was using assistant coaches in practice as extra bodies. The sick half of the team was literally quarantined for the bus ride to Piscataway, put in a separate bus from Happy Valley.
“I just kind of stayed away from those guys. Stayed hydrated,” Tony Carr said. “Lot of vitamin C and took some pills to make sure my stomach was good.”
Payton Banks had 20 points and Carr had 15 points to lead Penn State past Rutgers 60-47 on Sunday in a New Year’s Day matinee.
“It’s been interesting — the challenge,” Chambers said. “But this is the road we have to take and these kids took a big step.”
Penn State (9-6, 1-1) struggled out for the gate. The Nittany Lions went 0 of 10 from the field before Carr made a 3-pointer with 12:51 left in the first half. From that 7-5 deficit, the Lions reached halftime with a 27-23 lead.
From there, Penn State would slowly extend the lead. Lamar Stevens dunked on a fast break after stealing the ball from Issa Thiam to give Penn State the 44-29 lead with 12:54 to play. The slam briefly sucked the energy from the 6,079 Rutgers fans.
“I loved the crowd,” Rutgers first-year coach Steve Pikiell said. “It was awesome and I’m glad they came out. They should come out and support this team. This team is working hard and these guys have done a very good job. So I was excited and it was a great environment. They kept plucking away for us, too. This team is going to keep fighting for them.”
Penn State would lead by as many as 18 leading 47-29 11:57 to play. While Penn State would go on a seven minute stretch without a field goal midway through the half, the closest Rutgers was able to get was 49-38 with 5:26 to play.
Mike Williams had 16 points for Rutgers (11-3, 0-1).
Watkins had five points in 18 minutes but Garner missed all six of his shots and didn’t score in 24 minutes for the Nittany Lions. Both came off the bench. Samuel had two points in 15 minutes.
Penn State: While they are 0-3 on neutral courts, the Nittany Lions are now 3-0 for “true” road games.
Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights are in search of their first Big Ten win under Pikiell. They had one win last season in Big Ten play against Minnesota and won just two games in their inaugural Big Ten season against Penn State and eventual national runner up Wisconsin.
Corey Sanders left with 5:39 left against No. 14 Wisconsin on Tuesday night and did not return with what Pikiell later said was a mild right ankle sprain. He returned to action against Penn State, coming off the bench with 15:29 left in the first half. He had 10 points in the game.
While Rutgers just joined the Big Ten in 2014, this was the 70th meeting between the two schools. Penn State holds a 40-30 edge in the series. The schools are 3-1 against each other as members of the Big Ten. Rutgers’ first Big Ten victory came against Penn State.
Penn State is at Michigan on Wednesday night.
Rutgers is at Michigan State on Wednesday night.