Just two hours before one of the most anticipated games in years for Rutgers basketball, the program announced that leading scorer Ron Harper Jr. will dress against no. 10 Iowa after missing the previous game due to a sprained ankle. Along with that good news is a major surprise. Caleb McConnell, who has intended to redshirt this season due to a back injury, will also suit up for this game and could make his season debut
Harper Jr. is averaging 23.4 points, 7.1 rebounds and 2.1 assists in seven games this season. He is shooting 56.4% from the field and 50.0% from three-point range on 50 attempts. It’s unclear how much he has practiced and how healthy he is, but whatever minutes he can provide will obviously be a huge boost for Rutgers in this game.
As for McConnell, he and Pikiell have addressed the possibility of him returning at some point this season if he felt ready, as it would not count against his eligibility after the NCAA announced a special ruling for all winter athletes having a free year due to the global pandemic.
The addition of McConnell is a huge boost for the depth of this team the rest of this season, as he adds even more experience and versatility to the rotation.
The bad news is that heralded freshman big man Cliff Omoruyi remains sidelined with a knee sprain. He hasn’t played since suffering the injury against Illinois on December 20.
That will leave Rutgers short handed up front behind Myles Johnson, who will be tasked to slow down the best player in the country in Iowa’s Luka Garza. Head coach Steve Pikiell said on Thursday regarding the matchup that “You’ve got to try to limit his opportunities and hope he’s not making jump shots. Myles is a good defender, but it’s got to be the whole team. No one is able to stop him. He can score in so many different ways. It’s not like you can just take away his post-ups. We have to do a great job of boxing out on our rotations.”
No. 14 Rutgers tips off against no. 10 Iowa at 2 p.m. ET at the RAC. Get ready with our game preview here.