Rutgers avoids disaster and survives Penn State

It was fitting, maybe even poetic. Of course, Rutgers didn’t make it easy for itself. Of course, the Scarlet Knights had to rely on their courage and last-minute defensiveness that almost gave their fans heart attacks.

It’s this attribute that has made Rutgers a contender for March. On Senior Day for program sponsors Geo Baker, Caleb McConnell and Ron Harper Jr., taking down an opponent wouldn’t feel right.

Defending an opponent’s life, making key plays in a close game, they must have felt like a perfect ending to their home script at the packed Jersey Mike’s Arena, a heartbreaking 59-58 win over the game – out-the-string Penn State, likely securing Rutger’s second straight NCAA tournament bid.

After Paul Mulcahy threw the ball away in the final seconds, Baker Sam Sessoms wouldn’t let him past him, forcing him into a difficult fadeaway on the horn that wasn’t close. Harper led by 15 points and Cliff Omoruyi and Dean Rieber had nine each.

Rutgers Pennsylvania State
Ron Harper Jr. defends Penn State’s Sam Sessoms during Rutgers’ win on March 6, 2022.
Bill Kostron

It was ugly sometimes. Rutgers dropped a lot of points on the pitch. It didn’t put the Nittany Lions away despite multiple opportunities. But the Scarlet Knights have found a way, as they have done so many times over the last three years.

In the first eight minutes, Steve Pikiell’s team forced three shot-clock errors. It forced another after the under-four-minute timeout after Penn State reduced a 15-point deficit to seven.

After the Nittany Lions equalized from a 19-6 run with a 2-00 lead, Harper sunk one of two free throws to give Rutgers the lead back for good. Harper then drew an offensive foul on Seth Lundy and Sessoms missed a contested knight. McConnell hit two free throws at the other end with 31.4 seconds left to extend the lead to three. Baker, after digging out the rebound from a Greg Lee miss, hit another at the line and had the defensive stand on Sessoms in the final seconds. Rutgers avoids disaster and survives Penn State


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