Rutgers men's basketball collapses against Minnesota
The Rutgers men's basketball fell to Minnesota 75-74 tonight. The Scarlet Knights (18-12, 10-9) were up by 10 points with just more than 1 minute remaining in the game but collapsed in the final minute, allowing Jamison Battle to hit a game-winning buzzer-beater three-point shot.
The loss to the league-bottom Golden Gophers (8-20, 2-16) pushes Rutgers to the bubble of the NCAA Tournament field.
The first half was a fast-paced high-scoring affair for both teams. The Knights scored 40 points in the first half, shooting 51.7 percent from the field, 87.5 percent from the free-throw line and 50 percent from beyond the arc.
Senior guard Cam Spencer scored an efficient 14 points in the first half, shooting 6-7 from the field and a perfect 2-2 from the three-point line.
Rutgers dominated the glass as well, grabbing 20 rebounds in the opening half. Junior center Clifford Omoruyi corralled in six of those rebounds and also scored 10 points in the half.
Though Minnesota struggled on defense and on the glass in the first half, it was able to make many of its shots and keep the Knights from pulling too far ahead. The Golden Gophers shot 42.3 percent from the field and 44.4 percent from beyond the arc. Dawson Garcia led Minnesota with 10 points in the first half.
Rutgers' lead was in the high single-digits for most of the first half, and the team went into halftime with a 7-point lead. The Knights led by as many as 14 points in the second half but failed to pull away.
With 1:15 remaining in the game, Spencer hit two free throws to put Rutgers up by 10 points. At that point, the Knights had a 98.6 percent chance of winning the game. In the final 75 seconds, Rutgers suffered a monumental collapse.
Twelve seconds after Spencer's made free throws, Garcia scored a floater to cut the Knights' lead to 8 points. Senior guard Paul Mulcahy proceeded to turn the ball over 2 seconds later, and the Golden Gophers scored 6 seconds later to cut Rutgers' lead to 6 points.
Missed free throws and bad turnovers plagued the Knights as Minnesota quickly got back into the game. With 5 seconds left, the Golden Gophers got the ball down 2 points. They would drive down the field, and after a shot fake, Battle hit the game-winning uncontested three-point shot.
Despite the loss, Omoruyi was dominant inside, scoring a team-high 23 points and corralling in a team-high 11 rebounds. Spencer continued his strong day in the second half and finished second on the team with 21 points, shooting 7-11 from the field.
Rutgers led for approximately 39 minutes out of the possible 40 minutes in the game but failed at the most crucial time signature when the clock struck double zero.
The Knights will look to close out the regular season with a win when they face off against Northwestern on Sunday. Tip-off will be at 7:30 p.m., and the game will be broadcasted on the Big Ten Network and 88.7 WRSU-FM.
"They did what they needed to do down the stretch," said head coach Steve Pikiell. "We kind of didn't make the free throws or the stops. We could have done either or, and we didn't do either, so, not good."
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