It was not an ideal situation for Rutgers. A must-win game against another on-the-bubble squad in front of a full-throated crowd on Senior Night in Bloomington.
In the end, it was Ron Harper Jr. rising to the occasion once again to take down a school from Indiana.
Harper Jr. knocked down a pull-up three-pointer from the left wing with 2.1 seconds remaining that led Rutgers to a 66-63 victory over Indiana. The Scarlet Knights improved to 4-9 on the road this season and 6-5 in Quadrant 1 games.
Struggling to get over the hump from the opening minutes, Rutgers outscored Indiana 21-11 over the final nine minutes to steal the victory. The final 19 seconds provided a show as the intense nature of the game came to a head.
The Scarlet Knights (17-12, 11-8) led 61-58 and secured a defensive rebound following a needed stop. A long pass heading for the baseline hit the official and landed in the hands of Paul Mulcahy. Xavier Johnson committed a hard foul that Mulcahy took offense to and connected with the head of the Indiana (18-11, 9-10) guard. He was given a Flagrant 2 and ejected from the game. Rutgers was shooting a one-and-one followed by two free throws for the Hoosiers.
Rutgers and Indiana exchanged a pair of free throws before Parker Stewart tied the game with a three.
Harper Jr. made sure the game would not get to overtime. He finished with a game-high 19 points, along with Trayce Jackson-Davis. The Hoosiers got comfortable early in the paint scoring 14 of their first 16 points near the rim.
Geo Baker added 13 points for Rutgers while Cliff Omoruyi logged 13 points, 12 rebounds, and four blocks. Omoruyi knocked down four big free throws in the final minute. Rutgers hit its final nine free throw attempts of the game.
This was a much-needed road victory for Rutgers if it wanted to stay in the hunt for the NCAA Tournament. The regular season will come to an end on Saturday as the Scarlet Knights host Penn State in another must-win contest.
Rutgers is still alive for a top-four spot in the Big Ten, which would earn its first double-bye in the conference tournament. What we know — Rutgers has put itself in a position to play some more meaningful basketball in March and will have to finish the job against the Nittany Lions on Sunday.