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Rutgers opens Big Ten play with victory for first time ever

The Scarlet Knights picked up a 74-60 victory on the road against Maryland to improve to 5-0.

NCAA Basketball: Rutgers at Maryland Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

It was a night of firsts for Rutgers when they traveled to College Park, Maryland to open their Big Ten schedule against the Terrapins.

The Scarlet Knights rode an explosive second half to a 74-60 victory at the Xfinity Center. This was Rutgers’ first ever win in a Big Ten opener. It came against a Maryland (4-2) team that Rutgers (5-0) has not beaten on the road since both teams joined the conference in 2014. With the victory, the Scarlet Knights have won their first five games of the season for the third time under Steve Pikiell and won them all by double-digits for the first time since the 1934-1935 season.

Rutgers came out red-hot in he second half led by Ron Harper Jr. The junior scored 19 of his game-high 27 points in the final 20 minutes on 7-9 from the field. The Scarlet Knights shot 63.6% from the field as they outscored the Terrapins 47-32 in the second half.

Geo Baker made his return back for Rutgers in this one. Baker missed the previous three games with a high-ankle sprain that he suffered in the first half of the season-opener against Sacred Heart. He played 28 minutes and finished with 15 points on 6-14 from the field.

On the same day that Rutgers rose to No. 19 in the AP Poll, they entered a conference game on the road as underdogs. Early on, the Scarlet Knights were unable to get much going offensively. They were able to build a double-digit lead in the first half but hit just one of their final 11 shots to end it. Maryland went on a 15-4 run to take a 28-27 lead heading into the break.

The Scarlet Knights were able to gain control early with a 23-10 run of their own to begin the second half.

On Monday night, Pikiell displayed more of what they call the “twin towers” with Myles Johnson and Cliff Omoruyi on the floor at the same time. Johnson notched another double-double with 10 points and 16 rebounds.

Maryland came in averaging 77.4 points per game. The Scarlet Knights were able to hold them well under their average thanks to defending the three-point line all night. The Terrapins finished just 4-20 from beyond the arc. Donta Scott led the way for Maryland with 20 points.

Rutgers will return home to the RAC on Sunday for a big-time matchup with Ayo Dosunmu and No. 13 Illinois.