Now on a four-game winning streak, the Rutgers men’s basketball team will travel to Iowa City to take on Iowa this evening. The Scarlet Knights (11-6, 7-6) made their way back into the top 25 after falling out on Jan. 11. Rutgers had been ranked as high as No. 11, however, its five-game losing streak plummeted the Knights outside of the top 25.
Rutgers’ latest win featured a nail-biting finish over Minnesota in which the Knights retook the lead in the final minute and did not allow a single point in that frame. Three Rutgers players finished with double-digit points, including junior center Myles Johnson (14), junior guard Caleb McConnell (14) and senior guard Geo Baker (16). Defensively, the Knights forced 12 turnovers, in line with their recent slew of strong defensive performances.
“(Iowa’s) well-coached,” said head men’s basketball coach Steve Pikiell on Tuesday, “They’ve been top-10 all year … Going to their place, they make the most threes, they lead our league in points per game, they have the best player in the country. A lot of obstacles."
In its first matchup against the Hawkeyes (13-6, 7-5) back on Jan. 2, Rutgers faced a loss that came down to a buzzer-beater attempt by senior guard Jacob Young. Young could not connect with the basket as the Knights fell to Iowa, 77-75. Luka Garza led Iowa to victory in that game with 25 points.
Rutgers was missing freshman center Clifford Omoruyi due to a knee injury in the last matchup. With Omoruyi out, junior forward Mamadou Doucoure was left to back up Johnson. The Knights were also plagued by their struggles from the free-throw line as they shot 4-12 from the charity stripe.
On its four-game winning streak, Rutgers has shot an overall 53-76, or approximately 70 percent from the free-throw line, a major step up from its 60 percent season average. Baker also recorded his fourth consecutive double-digit scoring performance last Thursday.
“I’m thankful we have some big guys that can defend … that have experience guarding (Garza),” Pikiell said. “You can always try to limit his touches, but the guys around him are really good … they have really good players surrounding him and that’s what makes it more difficult to guard him.”
For updates on the Rutgers men's basketball team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.