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Embracing Expectations: 4 Thoughts On Penn State

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NCAA Basketball: Penn State at Rutgers Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Rutgers beat Penn State 72-61 in a thrilling upset over a ranked team tonight.

Thoughts:

This is for real: As Aaron said in the comments section the other day, this is not a drill. This team is for real. To do what they have done the last 6 games, including two double-digit wins while Geo Baker was sidelined just goes beyond imaginable. The players stepped up. Steve Pikiell stepped up. If you were skeptical or if you weren’t behind this team, it’s time to believe. This is for real. There are sixteen games to go in the regular season. Strap in.

The RAC has woken up: In the second half, the RAC was as loud as I remembered during the Gary Waters era. The noise was deafening and if you could hear the person next to you, I’d be impressed. This probably wasn’t historic RAC level noise, but the place is back to the way it used to be. The fans are back and they are into it. Bring ear muffs the rest of the way.

Ron Harper Jr.: Joe Boylan harped on this in the postgame, but the move to give Ron the ball down the stretch changed the tenor of the game. No only did Ron Harper Jr slow down Lamar Stevens all game, but he made Stevens work on D and then put him in foul trouble. Harper got to the line repeatedly and made his free throws. Every single one of his twenty-two points were huge tonight. Harper is growing up before our eyes.

Jacob Young: There was a stretch in the second half, where Young was the guy you could only dream of. He got to the rim and made lay-ups. He got to the free throw line and he made a huge three that blew the roof off the place. He tried to go basket for basket with Myreon Jones—who caught unbelievable fire for a while until Montez Mathis manned up on him—but couldn’t keep it up. However, Young really stabilized Rutgers in the second half so Harper Jr could take over.

Bonus Thought: This fifth thought is purely for Al Reicheg who requested it. An underrated player tonight was Shaq Carter. While Mike Watkins was dominating in the first half with 12 early points, Steve Pikiell subbed into Carter to at least give Watkins a different look from the defensive end. The move worked and slowed Watkins down. Carter played 11 really important minutes tonight. Without him, Watkins may have truly gone off and put the game out of reach.

What a night. What a game. Enjoy this. It is so much fun.