The Rutgers men’s basketball team defeated Michigan 75-67 in its third conference game of the season. The win gives the Scarlet Knights (8-5, 2-1) their first win over the Wolverines (7-6, 1-2) since joining the Big Ten in 2014 and now gives the program victories over every team in the conference.
The first half was highlighted by strong shooting from Rutgers, finishing the first half with seven made three-pointers. Much of the offensive production in the first half was provided by senior guards Geo Baker and Ron Harper Jr., who both combined for 26 points at halftime.
After holding a lead as large as 16 points, Rutgers ultimately took a 39-30 lead into the halftime break.
Thanks to tough defense and key shot-making from Baker and Harper throughout the second half, the Knights were able to maintain their halftime lead despite several Michigan runs. Free throw shooting at the end of the game finally sealed the victory.
Rutgers never trailed in the win, with the smallest Wolverine deficit in the second half being 7 points.
“It was just a great team win. I feel like we executed the game plan really well... ” Harper said after the game. “Tonight I just feel like everybody who checked into the game brought energy, and that was a big emphasis talking to the guys pre-game and practice. Just go out there and no matter how much you play, you just have to bring it.”
Baker and Harper combined for 47 of the Knights’ 75 points when it was all said and done. Baker scored a game-high and season-high 27 points while Harper scored 20 points, the fourth time he has hit the 20-point mark this season.
The senior duo was helped by the strong play of senior guard Caleb McConnell, who contributed 9 points to go along with tenacious defense on the opposite end.
Junior guard Paul Mulcahy led the game in the assists department with 7 assists on 7 points while sophomore center Clifford Omoruyi finished with his own game-high of 12 rebounds. Omoruyi played 35 minutes and was the primary defender of Preseason All-Big Ten Team member Hunter Dickinson.
“We battled through a lot of stuff. We out-rebounded them and these guys were terrific down the stretch, made the big plays,” said head coach Steve Pikiell. “We made threes. I thought we shared the ball again. Another 20 assists game which has to be a stretch here that we’ve never had.”
Rutgers made a season-high 11 three-pointers on 23 attempts in the win, a percentage that works out to just under 50 percent from beyond the arc. The Knights also won the rebounding battle over Michigan 29-26, making Rutgers 5-2 this season when it out-rebounds its opponent.
Dickinson led the Wolverines with 25 points. He was one of four Michigan players to reach double-figures with the next highest point total coming from Moussa Diabate, who also led the team with nine rebounds and had two steals. Eli Brooks led with six assists.
The Knights will stay at home to take on Nebraska on Saturday. The game will tip off at 2 p.m. and will be broadcasted on the Big Ten Network and 88.7 WRSU-FM.
“We got through a tough time, this was our third game in seven days after coming off 13 days off so,” Pikiell said. “Proud of these guys, good veteran win, and now we got another one coming up here, so we’re in the gauntlet.”
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