The Rutgers men’s basketball team returns to action against Big Ten rival Maryland tomorrow on Senior Knight at the Rutgers Athletic Center (RAC). After falling short despite a fierce comeback against Penn State, the Scarlet Knights (18-11, 9-9) look to bounce back and topple the No. 9 Terrapins (23-6, 13-5).
The team will celebrate the careers of three players leaving the squad: senior forward Shaq Carter, graduate student forward Akwasi Yeboah and fourth-year junior guard Joey Downes. Yeboah and Carter have played key roles in the winning season Rutgers has put together. Carter has spent two years with the Knights after spending his previous two years at Eastern Florida State College. Yeboah, the team's co-captain, has spent one year with Rutgers after playing at Stony Brook for four years.
"It definitely has (passed by quickly). I wish I had a few more years to play here, but that's not the case," Carter said to the media at practice on Sunday.
When asked what his favorite memories are with the team, he said, "just how hard we worked as a team in practice, and all the tough times that we go through. Just getting over those humps, those days where you feel like not practicing and you just do it anyway. Those are some of the moments I'm going to remember the most."
With this being an emotional time for Carter and the seniors, the elder statesmen of the team can't forget that they still have to focus on the task at hand. They are running out of time to improve their NCAA Tournament resume, as their three-game losing streak has stopped the momentum from earlier in the season. Their next opponent presents one of their biggest challenges of the season, and there is no room for any mental lapses.
Maryland has lost 2 of its last 3 games, with the latest loss coming against conference rival Michigan State. Traveling to New Jersey, the Terrapins will look to complete the season sweep against the Knights after defeating them in their last matchup in College Park, Maryland, last month. In that matchup, Maryland had three players in double digits: Anthony Cowan (17 points), Jalen Smith (14 points) and Darryl Morsell (14 points). After surviving a late comeback against Rutgers, the Terrapins escaped with the win in their home arena.
The Knights are looking to finish off their historically successful season at the RAC on a high note. With the best home record in the country (17-1), Rutgers is playing Maryland in statistically one of the toughest places to win for opponents. The Terrapins are 5-5 when playing on the road, with all of those losses coming at Big Ten arenas.
The Knights’ defense holds opponents to 62.3 points per game, while Maryland’s high-paced offense averages 63.8 points. With both teams only scoring in the 50s last matchup, expect a physical and defensive battle. Also consider Rutgers' sixth man, the RAC’s energetic and disruptive crowd.
After the loss against the Terrapins in early February, head coach Steve Pikiell shared his thoughts on letting the game slip away late.
"It's on me at the end of the game to make sure we get better looks. They made it hard. They have a big shot blocker in the paint. We just came up a little short today. These guys are young and we're playing quality teams." Pikiell said. "It was a great college basketball game. Maryland is really good. We played well. We played hard."
As Senior Knight approaches, take into account the intense atmosphere Maryland is going to face coming into this game. The players and fans of the Knights will be ready to stop the Terrapins from getting their season sweep. Rutgers looks to complete a franchise-best 18-1 home record with a win against Maryland.
The Knights tip off against the Terrapins at 7 p.m. tomorrow.
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