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Rutgers men's basketball looking to Northwestern matchup

Junior guard Montez Mathis, junior center Myles Johnson and the Rutgers men's basketball team will try to make it 2-0 against Northwestern this season.  – Photo by Kelly Carmack / Photo Editor

The Rutgers men’s basketball team will host Northwestern on Saturday at the Rutgers Athletic Center in the second and final meeting between the teams this season. The No. 25 Scarlet Knights (11-7, 7-7) defeated the Wildcats (6-11, 3-10) 64-56 in the first matchup on Jan. 31 of the season series.

Rutgers is entering this weekend’s contest coming off a 79-66 loss to Iowa on Wednesday, a defeat that snapped a four-game winning streak for the Knights. In the loss, senior guard Geo Baker led Rutgers with 11 points and a team-high five assists, while senior guard Jacob Young followed close behind with 10 points off the bench. Junior guard Caleb McConnell led the team on the glass with seven rebounds.

“We had some chances, but we got beat rebounding and at the free-throw line,” said head men’s basketball coach Steve Pikiell after the game, according to Rutgers Athletics. “We could have made it interesting, we needed a couple of timely baskets. But we didn't seem to get those in this game.”

With six games remaining in the regular season, the Knights are led in scoring by junior guard Ron Harper Jr., who is averaging 16.4 points per game (PPG) on the season. Young follows close behind, contributing approximately 14 PPG to go along with a conference-leading 1.8 steals per game (SPG).

Junior center Myles Johnson leads the team in rebounding, bringing in 8.5 rebounds per game (RPG), making him fifth in the Big Ten. Johnson also averages a team-best 2.3 blocks per game, ranking second in the conference behind Minnesota’s Liam Robbins.

For Northwestern, Saturday’s contest is an opportunity to snap a 10-game losing streak that was extended on Wednesday night in a 79-76 double-overtime loss to Indiana. So far this season, the Wildcats are led in scoring by Chase Audige, Miller Kopp and Pete Nance, all of whom are averaging double-digit PPG this season.

Nance also leads Northwestern in rebounding, contributing 6.8 RPG. Boo Buie leads the team in assists, averaging 4.5 assists per contest.

The Wildcats rank sixth in the Big Ten in total PPG and seventh in field goal percentage, pouring in 74.5 points per contest and shooting approximately 45 percent from the field. Rutgers follows behind at ninth in the conference, averaging 72.3 PPG, while shooting 46 percent as a team, a percentage that ranks fourth in the Big Ten.

On the defensive end of the floor, the Knights are among the best in the Big Ten in steals and blocks. Rutgers averages a conference-best 8.28 SPG and blocks the second-most shots in the Big Ten, falling just behind Michigan. Northwestern ranks eighth and last in the Big Ten in these respective categories.

“We are in good spirits right now,” said Baker after Wednesday’s loss, according to On The Banks. “We are locked in. One game does not make or break our season. We got a lot of games left, so we have to keep fighting and continue (toward) our goals.”

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

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