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Rutgers downs Syracuse for 4th win

Senior guard Jacob Young tallied 18 points and 10 assists against Syracuse and ended the game by shooting 3 of 4 from the foul line. – Photo by Rutgers Men's Basketball / Twitter

For the first time since 2003, the Rutgers men’s basketball team defeated Syracuse on Tuesday, by a final score of 79-69. The win is the No. 21 Scarlet Knights’ (4-0, 0-0) third in Big Ten/Atlantic Coast Conference Challenge history.

Junior forward Ron Harper Jr. led Rutgers with 26 points. As head men's basketball coach Steve Pikiell said at the postgame press conference, “Ron did what Ron does."

Senior guard Jacob Young and junior center Myles Johnson posted double-doubles, and Johnson paced the Knights with 12 rebounds. “We're lucky, (Johnson) does a ton of great things for us,” Pikiell said at the press conference. ”He's a really good passer. He'll block shots. He'll alter a ton of shots.”

The Orange (3-1, 0-0) were led in scoring by Alan Griffin’s 20 points. 

Junior guard Montez Mathis started the scoring with 2 points as he fell to his back. Sophomore guard Paul Mulcahy and Harper Jr. each followed up with buckets from deep.

Johnson dunked for his first points. He threw a full-court pass to Harper Jr., who was fouled on his way to the basket, minutes later.

The Knights' defense quickly recovered rebounds and forced turnovers to amass 10 points on fast breaks and 6 from forced turnovers.

The quick passing led to an open Harper Jr. in the paint for a lay-up with the shot clock about to expire. Rutgers’ 11-point scoring run gave way to a 6-0 Orange scoring run to end the half at 34-30 for the home team.

The second half saw the scoring run for Syracuse continue with an “and-one” off the foul from freshman center Cliff Omoruyi. On the next possession, the Knights passed the ball around the horn before finding Harper Jr. at the wing for three.

The teams exchanged baskets as the half progressed, but Rutgers kept its narrow lead.

The Orange converted on one free throw, and a possession later tied the game for the first time since they started off a three-pointer from Griffin. Mathis got the three-pointer lead back on the next possession. 

Syracuse took its first lead of the game off a dunk by Griffin with over 7 minutes to go. That lead lasted until Johnson called for the ball down low and slammed it home to give the Knights a 1-point lead. Mathis built on the narrow lead by adding three. Soon after, Young made his own path to the basket to push the lead to six.

“When adversity hits, all we got is each other out there,” Harper Jr. said. “It’s all about how we respond.”

An 11-0 scoring run for Rutgers came to an end after several made foul shots. Johnson erased those points with a foul shot in his only trip to the charity stripe. 

After shooting 50 percent from beyond the arc in their previous game, the Orange failed to connect on two deep shots in the final minute. Young closed out the game by going 3 of 4 from the foul line.

Defensively, Omoruyi made the stat sheet by registering two blocks. Pikiell commented on Young’s play. “He really did a great job on the defensive end of the floor, so he had a great game, his first double-double, so proud of him,” Pikiell said.

The Knights are back in action next week as they travel to Maryland for both teams' first conference game. Tip-off is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. on Monday.

For updates on the Rutgers men’s basketball team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.

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