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'They came out hot': Steve Pikiell, Kevin Willard, players address media after Rutgers men's basketball Big Ten Tournament loss to Maryland

Steve Pikiell and the Rutgers men's basketball team battled injuries and different lineups in what became a down 2023-2024 season. – Photo by Ben Horner

After the Rutgers men’s basketball team fell to Maryland 65-51 in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament at the Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on Wednesday, senior center Clifford Omoruyi consoled his teammate and senior forward Aundre Hyatt in the post-game press conference. Omoruyi’s future with the Scarlet Knights (15-17, 7-13) currently hangs in the balance.

​​”These guys have a lot of choices now. Next year is not guaranteed to anybody,” said head coach Steve Pikiell. “You thank them. They've been great representatives of Rutgers. Terrific academic. They worked. There was no drama this year. They kind of came to practice, and they fought.”

It was surely a disappointing finish for Omoruyi and Hyatt, as Rutgers fell behind early in the first half and could not get it going on offense.

“I feel like they came out, made shots early on,” said freshman guard Jamichael Davis. “We dug ourselves in a deep hole, made it hard for us to come back. But they came out hot. Credit to Maryland.”

The Terrapins (15-16, 7-13) opened up the game on an 11-0 run. At different points in the game, they led 17-3, 32-14, 41-22, 51-27 and 62-36. The Knights could not gain the momentum or consistency needed on the offensive end of the floor each time.

“They just stopped the bleeding every time,” said redshirt junior guard Jeremiah Williams.

Maryland head coach Kevin Willard spoke on what he wanted the Maryland defense to focus on against Rutgers’ offensel, who ended up shooting a 31.1 percent success rate from the field on Wednesday.

“There's times where (Rutgers) really struggles to shoot the ball, and they run good stuff. But there's times where you've just got to pack it in on them at times and just try to make them make threes,” Willard said.

Pikiell credited the Terrapins ability to control the boards, throughout the season and in their win.

“We were concerned about the backboards. We knew that would be the result if they got us on the backboards. They're a really good rebounding team,” Pikiell said.

Maryland was able to out rebound the Knights 45-33, putting a pin in Pikiell’s plans to implement bigger rotations.

Despite a sour end to the season, Omoruyi is grateful for his time with Rutgers. 

It's been a great experience just playing with the guys. They've been great people off and on,” Omoruyi said. “Just having a great coaching staff around us. It's been a great experience just having people support us. Our fans show up no matter what. I just want to say thank you for everything.”

All the Knights can do now is lick their wounds, evaluate their play this season and turn their attention to 2025 where a class featuring Dylan Harper, Ace Bailey, Lathan Somerville and more awaits.

“It's my job now to make sure that we're a lot better next year. I'm on a mission to do that,” Pikiell said. “Hopefully we stay healthy too because that was a big part of it this year, never getting into a rhythm.”

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

To view more of Josh Meyers' work, follow @JoshCMeyers on X.

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