On a day where Rutgers was celebrating a senior class that will go down in program history, emotions and energy were high for hours before tip-off.
The Scarlet Knights needed a victory in the final game of the season against Penn State to avoid a devastating Quad 3 loss. Did you expect it to be easy?
Rutgers led by as many as many as 15 in the second half before the Nittany Lions were able to tie it up late. In the end, a Penn State three found nothing but air as the buzzer sounded after a 59-58 win for the Scarlet Knights. A 12-8 regular season record is the program’s best since joining the league eight seasons ago. Could this be the cherry on top of the NCAA Tournament resume for Rutgers?
Keeping with the theme, the sequence of events on Sunday afternoon at Jersey Mike’s Arena might have brought back nightmarish memories of the Round of 32 against Houston last year. Penn State (12-16, 7-13) went on a 24-9 run to even the game at 55 with two minutes left thanks to poor possessions and missed free throws by Rutgers (18-12, 12-8).
Thanks to some strong defensive possessions, Rutgers held Penn State just long enough — not that they didn't have chances. The final play of the game saw Paul Mulcahy throw the ball away giving the Nittany Lions a chance to win with four seconds remaining.
Rutgers gained control of the contest early building a double-digit lead by the 12-minute mark. Penn State would make runs of its own but the Scarlet Knights held up getting it back up to eight by halftime. In the second half, there was no real concern of Penn State getting back into the game, until the final minutes of course.
As the final buzzer sounded, a collective sigh of relief was heard from 8,399 fans in attendance, the most for a game since 2002.
Mulcahy finished with eight points, five rebounds, and six assists as Ron Harper Jr. led Rutgers with 15 points.
Rutgers, who moved back into the tournament picture after a massive road win over Indiana, might have just solidified their spot in the tournament. This came on a day that the program honored a senior class that has won many games and changed the reputation of Rutgers’ basketball.
Exactly one week from today, Rutgers and its fans will wait to see if it will be called on Selection Sunday. First is the Big Ten Tournament with RU guaranteed no worse than the No. 6 seed. Whether they are bound for Dayton or the Round of 64, the Scarlet Knights helped their chances to dance for the second consecutive season by outlasting the Nittany Lions.