Rutgers upsets No. 1: Five keys from Thursday’s historic win

The Rutgers men’s basketball team beat Purdue on a buzzer-beater Thursday night to earn their first win over a No. 1-ranked team.

Coming off of a bad loss a week ago against Illinois, Rutgers faced the challenge of facing the newly crowned No.1 Purdue Boilermakers. To make matters worse, they would once again be without one of their leaders, senior guard Geo Baker.

There were a few things in Rutgers’ favor, though. First, things can’t be as bad as that Illinois game … right? Second, the Scarlet Knights returned home to a raucous crowd at Jersey Mike’s Arena that was sold out for the 15th consecutive game. Lastly, despite never having beaten the top-ranked team in the country, Rutgers had Purdue’s number as of late. Coming into the contest, the Scarlet Knights had won three in a row against the Boilermakers.

Many fans wondered if unranked Rutgers could compete with Purdue. Well, the Scarlet Knights did more than just compete, they earned a hard-fought 70-68 victory.

Let’s take a look at five key takeaways from the thrilling upset in Piscataway.

Rutgers women’s basketball sees progress in weekend battle against Maryland

Rutgers women’s basketball shows progress and development in Big Ten opening loss to Maryland.

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It was a tough loss for Rutgers women’s basketball, who fought hard and kept things very close in a 73-59 home loss to No. 8 Maryland.

Rutgers was led with strong efforts from Shug Dickson (18 points) and Osh Brown (18 points, eight rebounds). The Scarlet Knights are now 4-6 (0-1 Big Ten) on the season.

The Scarlet Knights started the game strong, going 53.8 percent from the floor in the first quarter, then things cold down as Rutgers missed 11-of-14 shots

Interim head coach Timothy Eatman said “credit them for being one of the top 10 teams in the country, for finding a way to execute and doing the things they’re supposed to do to be a good basketball team.”

“Well we thought the three things we needed to do: play great transition defense, that was number one. When we made a run, they answered with the easy basket but overall, I thought we fought to get back in transition,” Eatman told reporters after the game.

“We held them probably 10-12 points below their season average, so that was our kids really tring to get back in transition.

“The second thing we needed to do was keep them off the offensive boards. They’re getting 56 baskets this season off offensive rebounds, 72 baskets in transition. We thought we needed to limit it. The thing that we didn’t do was the third thing. We thought we needed to keep them off the frow throw line.

The Terrapins were 20-of-27 from the free throw line.

Also a big issue for Rutgers was that Maryland created 19 turnovers in the game.

Eatman started his press conference by congratulating the women’s soccer team for making the final four of the NCAA Tournament.

What did we learn from Rutgers at Illinois?

Rutgers’ men’s basketball team hit the road on Friday night to kick off Big Ten play with a matchup against Illinois airing on ESPN 2. The Scarlet Knights dropped an ugly one, losing by 35 with a final score of 86-51.

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Rutgers’ men’s basketball team hit the road on Friday night to kick off Big Ten play with a matchup against Illinois airing on ESPN 2. The Scarlet Knights dropped an ugly one, losing by 35 with a final score of 86-51.

Rutgers now falls to a 4-4 record after starting the season has taken on Illinois 12 times in the programs history. The last meeting was this past March in the Big Ten Quarterfinals. The Fighting Illini also won by a big number, 90-68. Rutgers did defeat them during the regular season last year at home, 91-88.

The Fighting Illini have now gotten out to a 6-2 start. Despite winning two of three last week, Illinois dropped from No. 15 to just outside the top 25 in the Ferris Mowers Coaches Poll. Since the poll was last updated on November 29, Illinois has defeated Notre Dame at home before demolishing Rutgers in the same building, where they are now 5-1 on the year. Fans may remember that the Scarlet Knights were receiving votes for the top 25 earlier this season.

The Scarlet Knights Geo Baker was once again out of commission while dealing with a hamstring issue. Facing off with an Illinois team that is 26th in the country in defensive efficiency without one of their Senior leaders was always going to be an uphill battle.

Let’s take a look at the key observations from Friday night’s Big Ten opener.

Watch: Rutgers men’s basketball celebrates big win over Clemson

Rutgers men’s basketball celebrates a big win over Clemson.

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After three straight losses, Rutgers men’s basketball got a big one on Tuesday night with a 74-64 home win over Clemson. It was a strong win for the Scarlet Knights, the most impressive of the year given that Clemson made the NCAA Tournament last season.

(And, coincidentally, lost in the first round to…Rutgers).

Clemson is now 5-3 on the year following the loss. They were picked to finish eleventh in the ACC preseason poll conducted by the media.

So, given Rutgers slower than expected start, the Scarlet Knights had the right to bust out a little bit and enjoy the win. Especially with a tough slate of games coming up for the Big Ten program.

Head coach Steve Pikiell joined in on the victory celebration, perhaps even kickstarting it:

 

On Friday, Rutgers plays at a very good Illinois team before games next week against No. 2 Purdue at Jersey Mike’s Arena and then at No. 25 Seton Hall.

The underappreciated Caleb McConnell has a big game for Rutgers in win over Clemson

Caleb McConnell had a big scoring night for Rutgers men’s basketball in a win over Clemson.

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Caleb McConnell put together a strong effort on both ends of the court, the Rutgers senior guard’s steady play keying a 74-64 win over Clemson on Tuesday night.

It was a breakout game offensively for the underappreciated McConnell, who scored 16 points and added six rebounds, two assists and a block in the Scarlet Knights most impressive win of the season. For McConnell, it was the first time all season that he scored double digits.

“Really, it’s not always about the offense. Everybody has been looking at the offensive side, especially me coming into this game. I feel like I affect the game in so many other ways than putting the ball in the basket, especially getting my teammates better,” McConnell said after the game.

“Especially getting this big win, that’s all that matters at the end of the day, it’s getting wins.”

Rutgers improved to 4-3 on the season with the win.

McConnell’s scoring this season has been a bit off. Despite being among the leaders in minutes played, three this season he failed to score. In two of those games, Rutgers has lost.

He averaged 6.7 points per game last year and came into Tuesday night averaging 3.3 points per game.

The win came against a Clemson side that made the NCAA Tournament last year. They lost in the first round to Rutgers.

The Tigers are now 5-3 on the season.

The win produced a dancing Steve Pikiell, the Rutgers head coach, when he entered the locker room.

“It’s lit, it’s always lit. When you get a big ‘W’ – it’s always lit,” McConnell said.

 

After back to back Rutgers hoops losses, Steve Pikiell says ‘I thought we’d be a lot better than this’

Steve Pikiell didn’t think his Rutgers basketball team would start off slow, but still likes the group.

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This is not the start that Rutgers men’s basketball had envisioned, a 53-51 loss on Tuesday night dropping the Scarlet Knights to 3-2 on the year.

In light of last season’s trip to the NCAA Tournament, there seemed to be some momentum this offseason about the direction of the program. Especially with a relatively light schedule to start, the back-to-back losses for Rutgers are shocking. Tuesday night showed a team that didn’t always have their motor on and that, for a fifth time this season, struggled to make shots.

Saying “we need to figure out a way to score my points,” head coach Steve Pikiell mixed realism with hope following the loss to Lafayette.

“I thought we’d be a lot better than this, obviously. We lost two one-possession games. I’d like to be 5-0, that’s where I thought we’d be right now but we’re not there,” Pikiell told reporters after the game.

“There is nothing you can do about the past, you can only work on what you need to do to get better in the future. We’ll devour film, we’ll keep working. We need to get some new guys into the rotation.”

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Rutgers, despite creating 20 turnovers, struggled in several other areas, including losing the rebound battle. The Scarlet Knights also shot poorly, making just 28.6 percent from the floor and 15.4 percent from behind the arc.

“I thought we just didn’t make shots today and that’s everyone. We have nights like and we’ll have a stretch where we make a lot of shots too,” Pikiell said.

“I’ll watch the tape again, I thought we had some good open looks and we’ll go from there. I don’t like the rebounding numbers; I thought we even we’re missing in the past we could crash the boards and get second shots. We did a little bit in the second half. We have to play better, [with] more energy. That’s on me, that’s on me as the coach. I’m fully aware of that.”

Pikiell didn’t sound set to panic, even after no one envisioned two losses from the season’s first five games.

“I stand by that I like this team a lot. I really do,” Pikiell said. “We got to figure it out, we got to get better.”

What we learned in Rutgers’ loss to DePaul

Back and forth is an understatement in this one. There were 16 lead changes and 11 ties for the national audience to enjoy. Let’s take a look at keys from the game.

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The Rutgers basketball squad represented the Big Ten in the finale of the Gavitt Games on Thursday Night against DePaul. Rutgers suffered their first loss of the season in this back and forth contest – 73-70 was the final.

After Xavier upset No. 19 Ohio State in the game prior, the Big East already took the Games with four victories, but the Scarlet Knights came up flat in their first loss of the year at the Blue Demons.

“They made some big shots down the stretch, and we made some big ones too,” Rutgers head coach Steve Pikiell said. “I liked the looks we got. They made some big plays.”

Rutgers had recently received votes in the Ferris Mowers Coaches Poll. We will have to wit to see how the loss impacted their standings.

Undisciplined play is ultimately what did Rutgers in – they turned the ball over 12 times. “It’s disappointing. we didn’t block out better and we fouled too much in a one-possession game” Pikiell said. “Give them credit, they worked hard and made it tough for us. They were very aggressive. They were averaging 99 points coming into the game. Give them a tip of the hat.”

Back-and-forth is an understatement in this one. There were 16 lead changes and 11 ties for the national audience to enjoy. Let’s take a look at keys from the game.

Rutgers finding value and versatility in LSU transfer Aundre Hyatt

Rutgers men’s basketball is seeing a big impact from LSU transfer Aundre Kyatt.

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In just three games so far this season, Aundre Hyatt is proving to be a valuable and emerging piece of the Rutgers men’s basketball team. The transfer from LSU has quickly settled in for the Scarlet Knights with his versatility and energy.

Rutgers has won their first three games of the out-of-conference schedule, albeit a bit sluggish and underwhelming at times. And Hyatt has been a major reason why Rutgers has been able to win three straight to start the year.

Even as he has yet to start for Rutgers yet this season, Hyatt is averaging 8 points per game, 4.7 rebounds and 2 blocks a game in 23.7 minutes played. All career-highs for the White Plains, N.Y. prep star.

“Aundre is really evolving too, he’s learning to play different spots too as we sub him in at a lot of different positions,” Rutgers head coach Steve Pikiell told reporters after his team beat N.J.I.T. earlier this week.

“He’s a good worker, he can shoot the ball, he can get to the rim. Does a good job of rebounding, he can score around the baskets, he’s kind of unique, he’s kind of a three-level guy. And he plays with some poise, he blocks some shots, he can do some stuff.

“He’s got some emergency defense in him. I like the way he’s developed, he’s obviously going to be a nice piece for us.”

Last year, his second season at LSU, Hyatt averaged 4.2 points and 3.1 rebounds per game as he averaged 16 minutes of action.

In the last NCAA Tournament, he helped key LSU’s opening round win over Stony Brook with 13 points and 10 rebounds in 32 minutes. In their second round loss to Michigan, he had two points in 24 minutes.

Rutgers beat N.J.I.T. 75-61 on Tuesday. They play at DePaul on Thursday night.

Coming out of high school, Hyatt was ranked a three-star and the No. 360 player in the nation according to 247 Sports.

Andy Katz on Rutgers basketball’s tight win over Lehigh: ”They look very Bubblicious’

Rutgers basketball did not impress in their season-opening overtime win against Lehigh.

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It isn’t necessarily doom and gloom for Rutgers basketball after their season opener, but some major question marks are emerging about the Scarlet Knights and their ambitions for this season.

Rutgers (1-0) had a scare on Thursday night, needing overtime to beat Lehigh 73-70. A popular pick to return to the NCAA Tournament, Rutgers was expected to roll over Lehigh and empty out the bench early. Instead, Rutgers needed to play some extra basketball to beat a team that was 13-15 a season ago.

College basketball insider Andy Katz has some concerns in part of his level-headed approach to the tight Rutgers win.

“So the positive Lehigh is a solid Patriot League team. They end up scoring 70 in overtime so defensively I think you could argue that Rutgers played well, which is what they do for the most part,” Katz said on the Big Ten Network on Thursday.

“It does sort of put a spotlight on how thin the line would have been. If Geo Baker [and] Ron Harper Jr. didn’t come back, because they almost did. Because they already last Montez Mathis, Jacob Young and Myles Johnson. Imagine if we lost all five? I mean, it would be a complete rebuild. So those two veterans come back.

The Scarlet Knights were outrebounded by Lehigh 46:44 and the Big Ten program was just 1-of-13 from three-point range.

Kat, one of the most respected college basketball analysts in the game, liked what he saw from freshman Cliff Omoruyi, who had 16 points and nine rebounds in the win.

“Cliff Omoruyi – he looked like he could be the guy that they expect. He played obviously behind Myles Johnson this year now he’s asserting himself, but it just feels like [Caleb] McConnell, [Paul] Mulcahy – someone else needs to emerge on a consistent basis for them,” Katz said. “I think they’re going to be a tournament team. But they look very Bubblicious last night in one game.”

Rutgers plays Merrimack (2-0) on Saturday at Jersey Mike’s Arena.

Watch: Rutgers basketball as getting the complete package in three-star Derek Simpson

Rutgers basketball signee Derek Simpson brings a complete game to the Scarlet Knights.

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Rutgers men’s basketball landed two players on Wednesday’s signing day, the most heralded of which is Derek Simpson. The guard, a three-star according to Rivals, was under-recruited coming out of Lenape High School (Medford, N.J.).

But the player has a tremendous upside, is a good defender, boasts length, a nice handle, can drive to the hoop effectively and has a nice mid-range game.

He had some big games last year, including 29 points for Lenape against Camden, a squad that features D.J. Wagner (the top player in the nation in the 2023 recruiting class.

Simpson has a big upside despite not coming from one of the traditional powerhouse programs in New Jersey. He held offers from Rutgers and Arizona State along with the likes of Delaware, Fairfield, Northeastern and Ridger among others.

He joins Rutgers along with forward Antoine Woolfolk, a football player who is beginning to scratch the surface as a basketball player.