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Rutgers stifles Penn State during 65-45 victory to keep pace in Big Ten race

The Scarlet Knights were strong defensively all night.

NCAA Basketball: Penn State at Rutgers Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Rutgers defends the three-point line well. Penn State shoots frequently from deep. Something had to give coming in and we got our answer early.

Rutgers dominated in the paint from the opening minutes as the Nittany Lions never got it going from beyond the arc during the Scarlet Knights’ 65-45 victory at Jersey Mike’s Arena in Piscataway.

With the win, Rutgers (14-6, 6-3) keeps pace in the Big Ten race, sitting two games behind Purdue for the top spot.

Penn State hit the first shot of the game before Rutgers went on an 8-0 run and did not relinquish the lead. In the first half, it was the Cliff Omoruyi show. The big man finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds on 6-for-7 from the field.

The Nittany Lions struggled to open the game and could not turn it around over the course of 40 minutes. Penn State, who shoots 41.3% from three-point range on the year, was held to 4-for-26 (15.3%) against Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights scored 34 points in the paint during the victory.

Rutgers opened up a double-digit lead in the second half but Penn State went on a run to cut it to three with 13 minutes left. From that moment on, Aundre Hyatt took over on the offensive end.

Hyatt scored 14 points on 6-for-11 shooting, including a string of eight points in a row to swing momentum back toward the Scarlet Knights. Rutgers would go on a 16-4 run to put plenty of distance on the scoreboard.

Along with holding Penn State to a season-low percentage from three-point range, Rutgers won the battle on the boards 43-26 and finished 15-of-19 from the free throw line. It also held the Nittany Lions to a season-low in scoring in the first half (24) and second half (21).

Rutgers will now prepare for a revenge game against Iowa on Sunday after suffering an early-season loss to the Hawkeyes. Purdue will be tasked with Michigan and Michigan State in a four-day span.

It might be a long shot but Rutgers is firmly in the race for the Big Ten title. What we do know is that it will end the night in the top two. An unselfish, defensive-minded team has fans hoping for a run that can have the team finish with the same fate of the Atlantic 10 Scarlet Knights from 1991.