INDIANAPOLIS- History for the Rutgers Scarlet Knights.
Friday night marked the first NCAA Tournament game for Rutgers in 30 years. Did anyone expect it to be easy?
The 10th-seeded Scarlet Knights battled No. 7 Clemson in Bankers Life Fieldhouse and came away with a 60-56 victory. This marked their first win in the tournament for Rutgers since 1983.
Rutgers nation was alive and well in Indiana from the opening tip. Chants rained down throughout the game and it gave the team a spark down the stretch.
This was about as ugly a first half as we could have imagined. The Scarlet Knights went 2-10 from the 3-point line and turned the ball over 10 times. Thanks to some defensive intensity and poor play by Clemson, the Scarlet Knights entered the break trailing by just three.
With 13:37 left in the second half, a Caleb McConnell jump shot kickstarted a 16-2 run that gave them a 50-39 lead. The Tigers would not go away easily.
Clemson scored the next 10 points to get back within one. On the ensuing possession, Jacob Young would knock down a shot from beyond the arc to give the Scarlet Knights some breathing room.
Young was one of the Rutgers’ stars to step up on Friday night — and of course, Geo Baker.
The senior has made a habit of hitting big shots over the course of his career and he did it again on college basketball’s biggest stage. With the game knotted at 55, Baker hit a 3-pointer with 3:49 left that would give Rutgers the lead for good.
Baker and Young finished with 13 points apiece. Caleb McConnell notched a double-double in this one with 13 points and 10 rebounds.
This is a team that was robbed of a chance to go dancing last season because of the pandemic. They would not be denied this year.
The goal for Rutgers was to get to the tournament. That was checked off on Selection Sunday. Now, they have advanced to take on No. 2 Houston on Sunday.
This Rutgers’ team will go down in history — as if we did not know that already.