Skip to content

Rutgers men's basketball earns hard-fought victory against Michigan

The Rutgers men's basketball team rode a strong defensive second half to a 62-50 victory over Michigan in today's second round of the Big Ten tournament. – Photo by

The Rutgers men’s basketball team earned a hard-fought 62-50 victory over Michigan in the second round of the Big Ten tournament early this afternoon. The Scarlet Knights' (19-13, 10-10) formidable defensive performance in the second half enabled them to push past their opponents to get the win.

Rutgers put freshman guard Derek Simpson into the starting lineup to start the game. It was only Simpson’s fourth game starting all year.

"It meant a lot. They all gave me confidence. All the coaches gave me confidence," Simpson said. "They told me, go in there, play with your speed and get everybody open and create for others. I feel like I did that today."

Adding Simpson into the starting lineup proved beneficial as he played 36 out of 40 minutes, scored 13 points, committed zero turnovers and had a 13 plus-minus. Simpson gave the Knights another confident ball handler on the court to match the Wolverines' (17-15, 11-9) pressure.

Rutgers' slow start in the first half allowed Michigan to jump out to an 18-11 lead with 7:25 left to play in the half. Facing a 7-point deficit, the Knights didn't allow the Wolverines to pull away and going into halftime, Rutgers had cut its deficit to just 3 points.

The Knights failed to keep Hunter Dickinson outside of the low block in the first half and Dickinson had 13 points heading into halftime. Conversely, Dickinson was able to neutralize junior center Clifford Omoruyi, who only scored 2 points in the first half and shot 1-7 from the field.

With Omoruyi struggling to score and in foul trouble, freshman forward Antwone Woolfolk stepped up, scoring 6 crucial first-half points and grabbing two rebounds as well.

Rutgers shot 29.4 percent from the field and 11.1 percent from beyond the arc in the first half.

The Knights came out with increased intensity on both the defensive and offensive ends in the second half. Fifth-year senior guard Caleb McConnell was guarding everybody on the defensive end, even picking up Dickinson for a possession. Omoruyi had two crucial blocks in the second half as well.

Rutgers took its first lead with 17:54 remaining in the second half. With less than 5 minutes played in the second half, Dickinson hit a three-point shot to decrease the Knights' lead to 3 points. That would be the last field goal the Wolverines would hit until Dickinson drained another three-point shot 14 minutes later.

In that 14-minute dominant defensive stretch, Rutgers was able to get out to a 13-point lead and put the game definitively out of reach for Michigan.

Senior guard Cam Spencer scored a team-high 18 points, with 14 of those points coming in the second half. McConnell grabbed a team-high nine rebounds.

Senior guard Paul Mulcahy had a rebound game scoring 8 points, corralling five rebounds and dishing out a team-high five assists.

At the end of the game, Mulcahy got injured due to an inadvertent poke in the eye from Jett Howard.

"I don't have an update," said head coach Steve Pikiell. "He took it in the eye. They're working on him right now. So I don't have any updates on that."

It is just the Knights' second win over Michigan ever.

Rutgers will now take on Purdue in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament. History will be on the line as the Knights look to make their first Big Ten semifinals appearance in school history. Tip-off will be at noon, and the game will be broadcasted on the Big Ten Network and 88.7 WRSU-FM.

"Just a good old Rutgers grind-you-down win," McConnell said. "This is the type of games we win. Definitely, when our backs are against the wall, like I said last week, I feel like that's kind of when we play at our best."

For more updates on the Rutgers basketball team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.

Related Articles

Join our newsletterSubscribe