- The Penn State Nittany Lions (3-6, 0-5 Big Ten) host the Rutgers Scarlet Knights (7-5, 3-5 Big Ten) Thursday, Jan. 21
- Both teams are mired in losing streaks, with Penn State still seeking its first conference victory
- Read below for odds, analysis, and our best bet for this matchup
The Penn State Nittany Lions (3-6, 0-5 Big Ten), still seeking their first conference victory, host the Rutgers Scarlet Knights (7-5, 3-5 Big Ten) Thursday, Jan. 21 in State College. Tip is set for 7pm ET inside the Bryce Jordan Center.
Neither one of these teams have tasted victory in 2021. It’s been more than six weeks since PSU’s last win, a 75-55 victory at No. 15 Virginia Tech on Dec. 8. Meantime, Rutgers’ last win came in an 81-76 decision at home against Purdue over three weeks ago on Dec. 29.
Rutgers vs Penn State Odds
|Rutgers||-1.5 (+100)||-115||Ov 144.5 (-110)|
|Penn State||+1.5 (-120)||-105||Un 144.5 (-110)|
Odds taken Jan. 20 at BetMGM
Jim Ferry’s club is in the middle of a four-games-in-seven-days Big Ten gauntlet. This follows Penn State’s two-and-a-half week program pause due to coronavirus issues. They lost their fifth straight Tuesday, 79-65 at Illinois.
Making the current state of affairs even more frustrating is fact the Nits have held 15-point leads in three of those five losses.
Things aren’t much better these days for Steve Pikiell’s Scarlet Knights. The program, ranked as high as No. 11 during Christmas week, has yet to win in 2021 after opening the conference slate with a 3-1 mark.
Now, Penn State is a slight home favorite in a matchup of two desperate teams.
The start to PSU’s conference slate must feel like a broken record for Nittany Lions fans. Under Pat Chambers, Ferry’s predecessor, the program started 0-6 or worse four times in conference play during his nine-year stint at State College. With a loss Wednesday, this group of Nits will join that ignominious club. The 2020-21 version, however, is rated fairly high (No. 48 by KenPom). That’s above 10-win Xavier and Big Ten counterpart Maryland.
It simply hasn’t been able to finish in conference play. That unlucky streak continued Tuesday against Illinois. The team’s leading scorer, junior guard Myreon Jones, put up 20 points against the Fighting Illini. But Illinois, trying to stave off its first three-game home losing streak in four years, was able withstand Penn State’s effort and pick up the win.
Penn State’s next two games — against Rutgers Thursday and Northwestern Saturday — are at home and present great opportunities for this team to turn things around and closes out an especially impacted Big Ten stretch in style.
Tale of Two Seasons
While Rutgers hasn’t been as flat-out unlucky as Penn State, the Scarlet Knights have experienced similar frustrations of late. The latest example was last Friday. Despite out-rebounding Wisconsin and holding the Badgers to 35% shooting from the field, Pikiell’s squad lost at home 60-54.
“The ball just didn’t go in. I thought we got a lot of good looks,” Pikiell said after the slugfest. “We looked like Rutgers defensively and rebounding-wise and that’s a positive.”
Ron Harper Jr., son of the five-time NBA champion, is the team’s leading scorer at 18.6 points per game. He was held to just six points against the Badgers on 3-of-14 shooting. Rest assured, the junior will be highly motivated to lead his well-rested team into State College. And he’ll have some help along the way.
Losers of four straight, the Scarlet Knights are finally at full strength. 6-foot-11 Nigerian freshman Cliff Omoruyi returned to action against Wisconsin after missing the last five games with a sprained right knee. Plus, the program will get an energy boost Thursday with the addition of fellow freshman Jaden Jones. Jones, who enrolled in the school this semester after signing with the program in November, will make his first road trip to State College.
It’s the first time Rutgers has been healthy all season. Now, Rutgers needs to find a way to win after losing five of six games and falling out of the Top 25.
This is certainly a winnable game for the Nittany Lions. But for a campus only 73 miles away from Punxsutawney, this season — like many before it — feels like Groundhog Day. I think that trend continues Thursday.
The pick: Rutgers -1.5 (+100)