Piscataway, NJ–Rutgers has garnered a vote in the AP Poll for two weeks in Nov. 2016, received votes in both the AP (8) and Coaches (18) Polls on Monday. The last time the program was ranked was in the final AP Poll it was the 1978-79 season (18).
Sunday marked the 12th meeting with Minnesota holding an 8-3 advantage. The Scarlet Knights have won two of the last three matchups. In the last meeting, Montez Mathis scored 18 points and Geo Baker hit a clutch 3-pointer with under a minute left in a 68-64 victory at the RAC, where RU is now 3-2 in the series.
RU improve to 13-0 at the RAC, their best on-campus start in program history.
The Scarlet Knights shook off a little Indiana rust and eventually settled down to beat Minnesota 64-56 at the RAC in front of 8,000.
With the win, Steve Pikiell now has 250 victories at the helm a coaching career and evened his Rutgers record (58-58).
Rutgers looked sluggish in the first half Gabe Kalscheur scored 8 points for the Golden Gophers and had RU down 10-2 at the 16:30 mark.
“After we were down and took a timeout no one in the huddle blamed each other. We knew they were going to make a run and we just knew if played together we could beat them.” Rutgers guard Jacob Young said.
Rutgers made a 6-0 run on their own to go up 19-12 but more importantly, they got out all the pre-game jitters.
The Scarlet Knights took a 34-25 lead into the half with Montez Mathis leading the way with 11 points and 2 boards.
Derek Harper Jr. dunked and rattled the rim to put the Knights up by 14 (39-25) at the 17:26 mark Minnesota immediately had to take a 30-second timeout.
In the first half, RU shot 36.1 percent (13-36) from the field and 44.4 percent (4-9) from downtown.
In the second half, the Gophers tried to make the game simple since the Scarlet Knights shut down the perimeter game. Minnesota gave RU a heavy dose of Daniel Oturu in the paint area.
Oturo scored 17 half points in the second half and had the Gophers knocking at the door closing the deficit to 9 (49-40) with 8:36 left in the game. But RU just slowed it down a little and ran their half-court offense to perfection to close it out.
Minnesota had to contend with Caleb Johnson, Myles Johnson, and Montez Mathis on the wings which made it difficult for the Gophers to shoot over their length and deal with their athleticism.
“We just want to win and play well. We don’t care about all that boxscores stuff. We are playing well as a team and each game somebody else is stepping up to the challenge.” Rutgers Myles Johnson said.
Rutgers had four players in double figures Paul Mulcahy (11), Ron Harper Jr. (11), Montez Mathis (11), and Caleb McConnell 10 points with 12 boards.
The Gophers were led by Daniel Oturo 19 points and Payton Willis had 12 points along with 4 boards.
“We are a different team from last year and we don’t care about the score because we know we can make plays down the stretch. So no one on the team ever panics when things are not going our we just play through it and it has been working out pretty well for us.” Rutgers Caleb McConnell said.
Rutgers will travel to Iowa City on Wednesday, January 25 for a 9 PM game against the Jayhawks.