Rutgers Men’s Basketball

Rutgers Men’s Basketball

Rutgers Men’s Basketball

Derek Simpson (0) of Rutgers men's basketball drives to the rim in Rutgers 59-56 win over Penn State. Photo Rutgers Athletics.

RUTGERS 59 – PENN STATE 56

Rutgers men’s basketball pulled off one of the greatest comebacks in program history, storming back from a deficit of 19-points to stun Big Ten rival Penn State 59-56 in Happy Valley Sunday night. The victory snaps a recent string of struggles for Rutgers who came into the game having lost four of its past five games.

According to Rutgers Athletics, it was the program’s biggest comeback win since 1996.

“This team is tough,” Senior forward Caleb McConnell said. “I feel like when we stick together, we can come over, and we can figure out anything, especially something like this. I feel like that’s what we did. We have players stepping up. Derek, Oskar (Palmquist), Antwone Woolfolk and our bench. We just made the little plays and we just stuck together throughout the whole game.”

Rutgers got out of the gate poorly, falling behind 26-9 before Derek Simpson connected on a lay-up with 4:57 to go in the first half that began to wake up the Scarlet Knights. Thanks to Simpson’s efforts, Rutgers pulled itself slowly back into as the first half wound down.

Seven of Simpson’s career high 16-points on Sunday came in the first half as Rutgers pulled to within 10-points at halftime.

Unfortunately for RU they came out cold again to start the second half as Penn State opened up with an 11-2 run to take a 42-23 lead. Cameron Wynter cashed in on six of those points for Penn State in the early going.

Then the Rutgers return began in earnest. With 16:47 to play, Cam Spencer hit a three pointer to cut the deficit down to 42-26, beginning what would be a 16-5 run for Rutgers, slicing the deficit down to 48-39.

Rutgers finally cut the deficit to single digits when Spencer and Simpson hit on a pair of buckets to make it a six point game with 6:12 to go.

Fast forward about three and a half minutes later, Caleb McConnell delivered the three-pointer heard round the world that tied the game at 54 with 2:36 to go.

“These guys, Caleb, Paul and Cliff, these guys are winners. They’ve been through this. They know the rigors of this league. I don’t think people really realize how hard it is, traveling and doing the things that these guys have to do on a daily basis. You can’t play well every night even though that’s what’s expected. But they continue to fight through it,” Head Coach Steve Pikiell said.

Finally with 1:24 to go Simpson connected on a layup and a free throw shot to give Rutgers a 57-56 lead, its first of the night. A night they would never forget.

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