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Rutgers men's basketball defeats Clemson to snap three-game losing streak

Senior guard Caleb McConnell put up 16 points against Clemson. – Photo by Emma Garibian

The Rutgers men’s basketball team defeated Clemson 74-64 yesterday night. The win snaps a three-game losing streak for the Scarlet Knights (4-3, 0-0) and sets the team up with a win headed into the team’s first two Big Ten conference games.

For most of the first half, both teams kept pace with each other on the scoreboard, until Rutgers engineered a 9-1 run to end the half which ultimately put it up 33-25 at the break.

The Knights hit five three-pointers in the first half compared to one for the Tigers (5-3, 0-0). Senior guard Caleb McConnell led all scorers at the half with 9 points.

In the second half, Rutgers was able to protect its lead and fend off several Clemson attempts to take control of the game. With just more than 12 minutes to go, the Tigers cut the Knights’ lead to 1 point after a 9-0 scoring run, but Rutgers would not give up the lead. 

Following the Clemson run, the Knights would build the lead back up to 7 on a three-pointer from senior guard Ron Harper Jr.. From that point forward, the Tigers would not get closer than 4 points as Rutgers closed out the victory.

“Great environment today, the place was awesome,” said head men’s basketball coach Steve Pikiell after the game. “We played a really good Clemson team … I thought everyone that checked into the game really helped us.”

Harper Jr. led all scorers with a season-high 23 points, four three-pointers and tied a team-high in rebounds. He was helped out by McConnell, sophomore center Clifford Omoruyi and sophomore guard Aundre Hyatt, who all scored in double-figures. Junior guard Paul Mulcahy led in the assists department with a game-high seven assists.

Freshman guard Jalen Miller saw his first action of the season in the win and played 7 impactful minutes. When Miller’s name was brought up in the post-game press conference, Harper Jr., McConnell and Mulcahy gave the freshman a round of applause.

“(Miller) did awesome,” Pikiell said. “To his credit, he said, ‘Coach I can help’, it was him every day (saying), ‘Coach I know I can help’... He came in and gave us a great lift. He can really pressure the ball.”

Despite shooting 43 percent for the game, The Knights shot 51.85 percent from the field in the second half and made seven three-pointers in the win. Four of those three-pointers were made by Harper Jr.

While the program improved its own shooting numbers, Clemson, a team that came into tonight with the second highest three-point percentage in the nation, was held to 22 percent shooting from three and 39 percent overall. PJ Hall, the Tigers’ leading scorer entering the game, was held to 10 points and fouled out of the game in the second half. David Collins led the team in scoring with 18 points.

Rutgers will now hit the road to face off against Illinois on Friday night. The game is the first matchup against a Big Ten foe this season. The game will tip off at 7 p.m. and will be broadcasted on ESPN2.

“It’s a good feeling going in but, you know, we play in the best league in the country and (we are) going at Illinois (against) arguably the best player in the country,” Pikiell said. “We got our work cut out for us, (they are) a well-coached team of really good players, so we’ll be well-prepared.”

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

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