Piscataway, NJ-Rutgers returns to a sold-out RAC on Saturday to take on Nebraska for a 2 p.m. start time. RU is off to their best home start in program history, Rutgers now lead the nation’s with the best home record (14-0) with New Mexico at 13.
This is the 14th meeting in the series dating back to 1999, with Nebraska holding an 8-6 advantage. Rutgers is now 4-1 at home. Since joining the BIG10, the Scarlet Knights have four wins in the series now it is the most against any league foe.
Rutgers (15-5, 6-3) is nationally ranked for the first time since 1979 and comes off a tough 85-80 loss to No.19 Iowa on Wednesday night.
It wasn’t pretty but Rutgers found a way to outlast the pesky Huskies’ team 75-72 at the RAC in front of full house of 8,000 fans.
The Scarlet Knights were led by Akwasi Yeboah with 20 points and Caleb McConnell chipped in 12 points, 4 boards, and 3 assists.
Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell called a timeout with thirty seconds on the clock to draw up a play for his veteran guard (Geo Baker).
Baker received the ball on the top of the key, he dribble to the right and dribble to left until he decided to hoist a deep three on the left elbow to the sound all cotton.
“I wanted the ball in my hands in the closing minutes of the game. The coach had much confidence in me and drew a play for me to take the last shot. It felt really good when the ball left my hand and didn’t have any doubts that it wasn’t going to go in.” Rutgers Geo Baker said.
Rutgers started slowly at the beginning in the first half as the Cornhuskers hit three straight 3-pointers on them to go up 9-2 at the 16:22 mark which prompted the Scarlet Knights to take an immediate timeout.
Rutgers tighten up on the perimeter with three minutes of applying the pressure on the wings, the Huskies went 1-of-8 while the Scarlet Knights went 4-of-5 gaining a six points advantage (30-23) with 4:41 left to go to the half.
In the last three minutes heading into the break, RU went 3-of-3 from the field and took a 38-33 lead going into the half. Also in that half, the Scarlet Knights shot 44% (15-34) from the field and 27% (3-11) from downtown.
“It wasn’t pretty at all but we found of way to get the win. We really didn’t play well on the defense at all. But the last few minutes of the game we knew the stops would come if we just weather the storm.” Rutgers Akwasi Yeboah said.
In the second half, the first 1:15 played RU went on an 8-0 for 47-36 lead. Nebraska had a very difficult time shooting over Johnson and Mathis on the wings.
The Huskers wouldn’t go away quietly. They got more created on offense they started to move people around in their offense and sprinted out to a 7-0 run at 8:57 mark to cut the deficit to three 62-59.
Rutgers started to get sloppy with the ball and turned the ball like donuts, the Cornhuskers took a 63-62 lead at the 7:49 mark, partly because they were able to find Cam Mack on the perimeter.
“I couldn’t be more proud of our guys for the effort that we showed tonight and how we continue to battle back and handle adversity well.” Nebraska head coach Fred Hoiberg said.
Nebraska was led by Cam Mack with 19 points and Thorir Thorbjarnarson chipped in 17 points along with 8 rebounds.
Before you could blink the Scarlet Knights was down by five 70-65 with 4:16 left on the clock. RU never panic or lost their poise coming down the stretch.
Rutgers was able to get two big threes from downtown out of Baker and Yeboah through a nice assist from Myles Johnson to knot the game at 72 with 2:07 left in the contest.
RU knew to win the game they needed stops- they definitely had to protect the long ball against Mack roaming free and launching.
The Scarlet Knights prayers were answered they got the stops and they made the Cornhuskers turned the ball over.
RU put the ball into the hands of Geo Baker with the game on the line and he delivered for the Knights.
“Good college basketball game today, for sure. The RAC was awesome. The environment helps us a ton. it wasn’t pretty, but I kinda like those games. You gotta figure out a way to grind out some games. I was worried about this game. I think Nebraska is really talented as you can see. (Cam) Mack, Thorir (Thorbjarnarson) and all those guys are real capable three-point shooters. They play real loose. Fred Hoiberg is a heck of a coach. I saw them beat Purdue. I saw them beat Iowa. I know how good Iowa is. We were a couple more points better today. These guys all made huge plays for us down the stretch and we figured out a way to win the game in a great environment.” Rutgers head coach Steve Pikiell said.