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Rutgers men's basketball returns to face Rider on Saturday

The Rutgers men's basketball team will look to bounce back against Rider. – Photo by Ben Solomon / Rutgers Athletics

The Rutgers men’s basketball team will return to the court to face off against Rider on Saturday. The Scarlet Knights (5-5, 1-1) had this week off from games after falling to Seton Hall in the Garden State Hardwood Classic.

In Sunday’s defeat, senior guard Caleb McConnell was tied for the lead scorer honors while collecting a game-high in rebounds. Senior guard Ron Harper Jr., who is Rutgers' leading scorer on the season, finished with 10 points on 3-12 shooting. Senior guard Geo Baker returned for the Knights after a 2-game absence due to a hamstring injury and a case of the flu.

“You know, we just never seemed to get that stop. There was that long possession there where the ball kept getting tipped out of bounds. But we just didn't play well,” said head coach Steve Pikiell after the game. “You've got to play well when they have a good basketball team.”

Despite the disappointing performance against the then-No. 23 Pirates (9-1, 0-0), Harper's play in Rutgers’ electrifying victory over Purdue last week earned him Player of the Week honors from the Metropolitan Basketball Writers Association.

In the program’s first-ever win over an Associated Press No. 1 ranked team, Harper tied a career-high with 30 points to go along with 10 rebounds and five three-pointers. The Franklin Lakes, New Jersey, native closed out the game with a buzzer-beater from just past half-court to win the game.

Saturday is the second of four out-of-conference games for the Knights before they resume Big Ten play after the new year. Before the win against the previously-ranked No. 1 Boilermakers (9-1, 1-1), the program dropped its first road game of the conference schedule against Illinois.

As for the Broncs (3-8, 0-2), the team has not played a game since its 79-67 loss to Marist on Dec. 5. Rider is led in scoring by Dwight Murray Jr. and Dimencio Vaughn, who both average double-digits points per game (PPG). Vaughn led the team in scoring against the Red Foxes (4-5, 1-1) with a season-high 28 points in the defeat. 

In addition, Vaughn falls slightly behind Ajiri Ogemuno-Johnson for the team-lead in rebounds, with both big men averaging approximately seven rebounds per game (RPG).

Led by 10th year head coach Kevin Baggett, the Broncs score an average of 64.8 (PPG) and surrender 72.8 PPG, both second-worst among Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) opponents. A strong suit of Rider is its ability to rebound the basketball. The team averages the third-most RPG and second-most offensive RPG in the MAAC.

Saturday will be the 17th overall meeting between the two programs and the first matchup since 2012. Rutgers holds a 15-1 advantage in the series and has won three straight games against the Broncs.

The game will tip off at 5 p.m. and will be broadcasted on the Big Ten Network and 88.7 WRSU-FM. At the game, the Knights will honor the 1983 and 1991 NCAA Tournament teams.

Each member of the two teams who are in attendance will be announced during halftime to recognize their achievements.

“We are honored to host a special men's basketball letter winner reunion where we will celebrate your past contributions to our program while also sharing the excitement of what the future holds,” Pikiell said.

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

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