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Rutgers looks to build momentum in rematch with Michigan State

Senior guard Geo Baker will look to build on his strong performance against the Hoosiers. – Photo by Rutgers Men's Basketball / Twitter

The Rutgers men’s basketball team will play Michigan State on Thursday in Piscataway. The matchup will be the second game between the Scarlet Knights (8-6, 4-6) and the Spartans (8-4, 2-4) this season, the first being a 68-45 Michigan State victory on Jan. 5. Rutgers is looking to build off of the momentum gained from its 74-70 win against Indiana on Sunday, a victory that snapped a five-game losing streak for the Knights. After the win, head men’s basketball coach Steve Pikiell said, “I thought our guys had to fight through a lot of adversity today. I was proud of them. They stuck together,” according to Rutgers Athletics.

Senior guard Geo Baker will look to build off a strong performance on Sunday against Indiana. Baker scored 19 points to go along with five assists in the win. He is averaging 9.6 points per game (PPG) and 2.8 assists per game this season.

“(Baker) has been here the longest. He has a lot of experience. Having him on the court performing at that high of a level, leading us to victory, I think is good for everybody. It definitely helped, seeing him perform so well,” said junior center Myles Johnson. Johnson is averaging 8.1 points and a team-leading 8.6 rebounds, ranking fifth in the Big Ten.

Junior guard Ron Harper Jr. continues to lead Rutgers with 18.3 PPG. He ranks sixth in the Big Ten in PPG.

Thursday’s matchup will be the Spartans' first game in 20 days after a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak within the program forced it to postpone its last three games. In its last game on Jan. 8, Michigan State fell to Purdue 55-54.

Aaron Henry leads the Spartans with 13.9 PPG, while Joey Hauser follows behind with 11.8 PPG to go along with a team-high 8.1 rebounds per game.

The Knights rank 10th in the Big Ten in scoring with 73.4 PPG, while Michigan State ranks eighth with 76.0 PPG. On the opposite end of the floor, Rutgers ranks eighth in opponent PPG, surrendering 71.1 PPG. The Spartans follow close behind, ranking ninth in opponent PPG, letting up 71.3 PPG. At the free-throw line, Michigan State is second in the conference, shooting 76.6 percent from the line. The Knights rank last with a 57.9 free throw percentage.

“I like the fact that everyone (who) got in made valuable contributions. Our bench was great,” Pikiell said on Sunday. “It is going to be another tough challenge ahead.”

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

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