The Scarlet Knights were down 24-8 at one point in the first half, but went on an incredible run to take the lead before the half. From there, they never looked back.
When asked about the run in the first half, coach Pikiell said, “ We brought our subs in, and I thought De really gave us terrific energy. Geo Baker, coming off the flu, had great minutes, too. I told the guys I believe in what we do, I believe in our defense, I believe in our players. We just have to stay the course.”
In a season where Rutgers dealt with plenty of adversity, they played the toughest schedule in all of the Big Ten Conference, they simply cannot be counted out due to just their #14 seed.
The spark for Rutgers tonight was junior guard Corey Sanders, who averaged 14.6 PPG on the season. Tonight Sanders nearly doubled that total with 28 points, 18 of which came in the second half.
The Rutgers win wasn’t an individual effort, however. Geo Baker and Deshawn Freeman each chipped in 15 points. Freeman had 5 steals and 8 rebounds as well. The Scarlet Knights will take on an extremely talented Purdue team tomorrow (Friday), in a quarterfinal matchup that will feature a #14 seed for the first time in Big Ten Tournament history.
Coach Pikiell isn’t fixated on numbers though. “I'll tell you, never get caught up in the numbers. I told our guys this is a new season a couple days ago. And there's no number. Everyone's the same. Just gotta keep winning. And been able to do that. And I hope we get all of New Jersey and all of New York really helping us out because I know our guys love playing in front of a lot of people. But those numbers next to your name don't mean anything.”
For coach Archie Miller of Indiana, it was a disappointing way to end his first season in the Big Ten.
The loss may mark the end of the season for the Hoosiers who are hoping for a bid in the NIT, but Miller is still proud of his team for everything they gave this season, “They gave everything they had all season long through a lot of ups and downs. Saw a lot of guys grow throughout the course of the year and do some things that a lot of people probably didn't anticipate. From that standpoint I'm proud of them.”
Corey Sanders, G, Rutgers (28 points, 3 assists, 12-20 FG)
Deshawn Freeman, F, Rutgers (15 points, 8 rebounds, 5 steals, 7-12 FG)
Juwan Morgan, F, Indiana (15 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists, 5-9 FG)