Piscataway, NJ-Sometimes you have to struggle and win a game like this just to see if your team has the internal fortitude to pull a tough game out like this.
It wasn’t pretty but somehow the Scarlet Knights remained poise through the storm of the Wildcats and stuck to their game plan.
Down by 18 they got on the bat phone and dialed up 0 (Geo Baker) to save the day. Baker scored 25 points on 10-for-17 shooting, while Akwasi Yeboah chipped 13 points. 22 of the points came in the second half to lead Rutgers (17-7, 8-5) to 77-73 win over Northwestern (6-16, 1-11) in OT.
The 18-point rally marked the Scarlet Knights’ largest comeback win since RU rallied from 20 points down in a 71-70 triumph at Pittsburgh on Feb. 21, 1996.
“That was obviously a really high-level Big Ten game tonight. I’d like to congratulate Rutgers. They have one heck of a team; they’re having a great season. I’m a big fan of Steve (Pikiell) and what he’s done with this program. His kids really made a lot of good play down the stretch when they needed them.” Northwestern head coach Chris Collins said after the game.
Rutgers is now 16-0 at the RAC this season and 19-3 since the Wildcats topped the Scarlet Knights on its home court, 65-57 on 1/18/19.
This win provides Rutgers its eighth Big Ten win, RU’s most in conference play since an 8-8 Big East record in 2001-02.
Rutgers fell behind 15-5 as Northwestern set the pace of the game early, hitting six of its first eight shots while Rutgers missed four of its first six through the game’s first few minutes.
Rutgers had no answer to Boo Buie who made the Scarlet Knights pay every time they left him open deep on the perimeter. But Rutgers would stay the course and play through it all.
RU got back into the game with 9-3 run of their own to close the half and went into the break down 38-27.
In the second half, Myles Johnson got some touches on the blocks and scored but consecutive 3-pointers allowed the Wildcats to extend its lead to 15 points.
NU led by 15 at the 18:54 mark until six minutes remained in regulation. The Wildcats led 63-52 with 6:12 remaining in the contest, but baskets by Geo Baker and Akwasi Yeboah sparked a 15-1 run for the Knights.
Baker’s driving layup cut the Rutgers deficit to 64-63. After a Northwestern basket, Baker tied it at 66 apiece with one of his now-patented step-back 3-pointers with just over one minute to play in regulation.
In overtime, the Scarlet Knights sprinted to a 4-0 run and clamped down on the perimeter to close out the game.
Rutgers survived despite a 4-for-20 (20%) shooting from beyond the arc by out-rebounding the Wildcats, 49-30, and outscoring NU 16-12 in second-chance points.
Boo Buie had 19 points for Northwestern along with Miller Kopp who chipped in with 16 points and 4 boards.
“We knew it was Geo’s night and he kept saying in the huddle feed me the ball and feel it tonight. When he is hitting shots like he did tonight, we feed him the ball it is that simple.” Rutgers Caleb McConnel said.