After three consecutive wins, the Rutgers men’s basketball team is set to take on Minnesota at the Rutgers Athletic Center Thursday night. The Scarlet Knights (10-6, 6-6) were on a downhill climb, losing five straight, before resurging in the past three games. Meanwhile, the Golden Gophers (11-6, 4-6) have been trending down, coming into this game on a two-game losing streak and having lost four of their past five games.
“Our defense has been really connected to have 20 turnovers,” said head men’s basketball coach Steve Pikiell on Tuesday, according to The Knight Report. “To be able to force that means your guys are active. They're active in their gaps. We're doing a good job of surrounding the basketball.”
In its last two games, Rutgers has caused more than 20 turnovers each game, the first time the team has done this since 2011. The Knights have only allowed an average of approximately 54 points per game on their three-game winning streak. Over the course of the entire season, Rutgers ranks sixth in the Big Ten defensively, allowing approximately 68 points per game.
Another factor of the Knights’ winning streak has been the play of senior guard Geo Baker, who has scored in double digits in each of the past three games. After suffering a high ankle sprain in Rutgers’ season opener, he took some time to recover. The point guard has been getting back to the form that earned him a spot on the Third Team All-Big Ten last season.
“Minnesota is awesome,” Pikiell said, ahead of tonight’s matchup. “(Head men's basketball) coach (Richard) Pitino does a great job. They have one of the elite guards in the country in Marcus Carr, and then they have one of the elite big guys in the country in (Liam) Robbins.”
Carr currently ranks fourth in the Big Ten in terms of scoring at 20 points per game. Carr also ranks second in assists in the Big Ten, with approximately five per game. On the other end, Robbins has held his own defensively, leading the entire Big Ten in blocks per game.
“Our bigs have to be ... ready,” Pikiell said. “And have to be able to defend Robbins without fouling, but you have to be able to defend him in the paint … Obviously, they've got an elite point guard, too, so that makes it really tough ... when both corners of your program are elite level.”
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