It is only right that Rutgers and Clemson matched up in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. This was a rematch from the Round of 64 in the NCAA Tournament back in March.
On Tuesday night in front of a enthusiastic home crowd in Jersey Mike’s Arena, the Scarlet Knights used the three-point line as an advantage.
It is hard to call the seventh game of the season a must-win game but it was as close as possible for Rutgers. In the end, the Scarlet Knights were able to get the job done 74-64, led by 23 points and nine rebounds from Ron Harper Jr. This win snapped a three-game losing streak for Rutgers.
The Scarlet Knights led for the final 22:27 of the game. A Harper Jr. three gave Rutgers a 27-24 lead with 2:27 remaining in the first half.
For the first time this season, the three-point line worked in favor of the Scarlet Knights — and against the least-likely opponent.
Rutgers (4-3) entered the contest ranked 347th in the nation in three-point percentage. Clemson (5-3) came into the game third in the country but struggled from the beginning. The Tigers finished 4-for-18 from beyond the arc. Harper Jr. led the strong shooting for Rutgers as he knocked down four of the Scarlet Knights’ seven makes from deep for 37%.
Geo Baker missed his second consecutive game with a hamstring injury. This means that Rutgers needed someone to step up and it was Caleb McConnell who was able to find his shot a bit. McConnell finished with 16 points on 5-for-7 shooting from the field and 6 rebounds. This was a sight for sore eyes for Rutgers as McConnell has struggled to begin the season.
Rutgers stayed in control in the second half as PJ Hall, the leading scorer for the Tigers, was in foul trouble. He picked up his fifth personal with four minutes left in the game and was forced to watch the remainder of the contest. Cliff Omoruyi gained an advantage down low, scoring nine of his 11 points in the second half. He also grabbed 9 boards.
The schedule does not ease up for Rutgers moving forward. It will travel to Illinois before hosting Purdue over the next 10 days. The Scarlet Knights were able to pickup a huge victory on Tuesday night and most importantly, got some big shooting performances from key players.
Confidence is key and this is a game that could build some for Rutgers heading into Big Ten play.