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No. 25 Rutgers uses defense to handle Northwestern 64-50 and pick up needed victory

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The Scarlet Knights defended well on Saturday night against the Wildcats to avoid a disastrous loss.

NCAA Basketball: Northwestern at Rutgers Catalina Fragoso-USA TODAY Sports

A win is a win and for No. 25 Rutgers, this was a much-needed one.

Rutgers (12-7, 8-7) was able to get back on track on Saturday night with a 64-50 victory over Northwestern (6-12, 3-11). This win makes it five out of six for the Scarlet Knights while the Wildcats have not lost 11 straight.

This was a game that Rutgers could ill afford to lost and it did not look good early. Northwestern built a 14-4 lead just 5:45 into the contest. Paul Mulcahy, broken nose and all, got the Scarlet Knights back on track with a layup with 13:50 left in the first half. From that moment on, Rutgers would go on a 33-13 run to grab a 37-27 lead heading into the break. The Scarlet Knights would score the final 10 points of the period.

Myles Johnson finished a perfect 5-5 with 12 points in the first half. He notched yet another double-double with those 12 points and 14 rebounds.

Rutgers was able to get comfortable defensively and this continued in the second half. There was a nine-minute stretch where Northwestern was held without a field goal. Rutgers held the Wildcats to just 50 points on 33% shooting from the field. This success did not always lead to offense as Rutgers was held scoreless for a seven-minute stretch that allowed Northwestern to cut the lead to three.

Over the next five minutes, the Scarlet Knights would go on an 11-2 run to put what was mostly a one-sided game out of reach — and they used the free throw line as a weapon. Rutgers finished 14-16 from the free throw line and made all 10 attempts in the second half.

The three-point line haunted Rutgers once again as they shot just 4-19 from beyond the arc. The inside presence of the Scarlet Knights was too much for Northwestern to handle. Rutgers won the rebounding battle 43-31 and outscored the Wildcats 30-22 in the paint.

Jacob Young led the Rutgers with 15 points while Ron Harper Jr. was the second Scarlet Knight with a double-double. He finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds.

This would have been a disastrous loss for the Scarlet Knights as they are still fighting for a better seed come Selection Sunday. They were able to avoid the dreaded Quad 3 loss and can move forward without any hiccups, for now. They will have chances to make a statement over the next week.

The Scarlet Knights will travel to Ann Arbor on Thursday night to take on No. 3 Michigan before returning home next Sunday to host Maryland.