The Rutgers men’s basketball team will travel to Indianapolis this week to compete in the 2021 Big Ten Tournament. The Scarlet Knights (14-10, 10-10) have earned the seventh seed in the tournament and are set to take on 10th-seeded Indiana in their first matchup on Thursday evening.
Rutgers secured its seeding in-part due to a 77-70 overtime victory last Saturday against Minnesota. In the victory, senior guard Jacob Young was the main catalyst for the Knights, finishing with 23 points, seven assists and four steals. Junior center Myles Johnson also provided valuable production collecting 15 rebounds to go along with 9 points.
“I'm happy for our fans,” said head men’s basketball coach Steve Pikiell after the game. “Rutgers University is one of the greatest places. This has been a two-year journey, last year never ended. Credit to our guys, credit to our fans, but this is a team that you can really cheer for. These are great kids from great families.”
With its performance in the regular season, the program has achieved its highest seed it has ever earned in the Big Ten Tournament since joining the conference in the 2014-2015 season. This season is also the second consecutive season that the Knights have won double-digit conference games.
Rutgers will be looking for its third win in as many tries this season against the Hoosiers (12-14, 7-12), who have lost five games in a row heading into the Big Ten Tournament. In their two meetings this season, the Knights won first on Jan. 24 in a narrow 74-70 road victory and second on Feb. 24, winning 74-63 on the program’s senior night.
“I felt like we got back to having fun today,” said senior guard Geo Baker after the win over Indiana on Feb. 24, where he had a season-high 20 points. “The best part about it was we faced adversity early in the game but no one hung their head. We stuck to the game plan and all we thought about was winning the game.”
Ending the regular season, Rutgers is led in scoring by junior guard Ron Harper Jr., who is providing 15.3 points per game (PPG). Following close behind Harper Jr. is Young, who is averaging 14.5 PPG along with a team-best 3.5 assists per game and a conference-leading 1.83 steals per game heading into the Big Ten Tournament.
Johnson leads the Knights in rebounding, bringing in 8.6 rebounds per game (RPG) and also ranks second in the Big Ten in blocks, averaging 2.5 per game.
For the Hoosiers, Trayce Jackson-Davis leads the team in several categories. Jackson-Davis averages 19.1 PPG, nine RPG and 1.4 blocks per game — all team-highs. In addition to Jackson-Davis, Armaan Franklin and Aljami Durham are the other players to average double-figure scoring for the team this season.
With a win on Thursday evening, Rutgers would advance to take on the number two seed Illinois on Friday in the quarterfinals. Tip-off for Thursday’s game is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. and will be televised on the Big Ten Network.
“It’s really a challenging league,” Pikiell said on Monday. “I have confidence in every team in this league if they get into the (tournament), and they get the right seeding and the right pairing, they can do a lot of damage.”
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