After three home victories to begin the season, the Rutgers men’s basketball team took a loss in its first road game of the season, falling to DePaul 73-70. The Scarlet Knights (3-1, 0-0) join multiple Big Ten teams who have been upset by Big East opponents in the Gavitt Tipoff Games.
The first 10 minutes, like the rest of the game, saw back and forth action from the two teams, with multiple lead changes and tough defense. Rutgers was the first team to pull ahead 12 minutes into the game, when a three-pointer from senior guard Ron Harper Jr. brought its lead to 7, the largest it would have in the game.
The Blue Demons (3-0, 0-0) responded by outscoring the Knights 17-6 over the rest of the half, going into the break up 33-29. Rutgers was led in first half scoring by Harper Jr., who had 6 points in addition to his eight rebounds. DePaul was led by David Jones and Javon Freeman-Liberty, who both had 11 at the break.
A three and a layup from junior guard Paul Mulcahy put the Knights back into the lead less than 2 minutes into the second half. The lead would change hands multiple times, reminiscent of the first half, as both teams attempted to pull ahead. Rutgers made it a two-possession ballgame with 6 minutes left as a result of a three from senior guard Geo Baker.
The Blue Demons stayed in the game, and a late basket from Jones put them up 6 with just more than 2 minutes remaining in the game. Two threes from Harper Jr. made it a 1-point game with 37 seconds left, with a foul and subsequent free throws making it a 3-point game as the Knights took the last possession.
Head men’s basketball coach Steve Pikiell called a timeout with 11 seconds left, giving Rutgers a chance to reset and run an offensive play. A three point attempt from sophomore forward Mawot Mag missed off the back of the rim, and a last second full court shot was short, giving the Knights their first loss of the 2021-2022 season.
Harper Jr. kept his double-double streak alive, recording his fourth in as many games with a team-leading 19 points and 11 rebounds. Baker also had double-digit scoring, with 15 points and a game-high six assists. Sophomore center Clifford Omoruyi continued to show his development in the early season, scoring 10 points while only missing one shot from the field.
DePaul was led in scoring by Jones, who contributed a game-high 22 points. Freeman-Liberty scored 19 and Brandon Johnson led the Blue Demons with 13 rebounds.
Rutgers gets the weekend to rest before facing Lafayette at Jersey Mike’s Arena on Livingston campus on Monday night. The game takes place at 7 p.m. and will be broadcasted on Big Ten Network+ and 88.7 WRSU.
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