Is it a coincidence that Rutgers has hit its stride once Jeremiah Williams returned to action?
The Scarlet Knights turned in a forgettable performance on the final day of January against Penn State. Turn the calendar to February and Williams was named eligible by the NCAA and returned against Michigan. Three games later, the Scarlet Knights are on a tear and put together its best game of the season in a much-needed spot.
Williams led the offensive charge with 18 points and seven assists as Rutgers dominated No. 11 Wisconsin, 78-56, at Jersey Mike’s Arena in Piscataway.
It turns out that when one of the nation’s best defenses scores points, it is difficult to beat.
Rutgers (13-10, 5-7) shot 10-for-17 from three-point range. It forced 12 Badger turnovers and held Wisconsin to just 32.8% shooting, including 5-for-21 from three.
The Scarlet Knights wasted no time taking control, jumping out to a 9-0 lead and holding Wisconsin off the scoreboard for the first three minutes. The lead was nine at halftime and Wisconsin struggled to fight back over the final 20 minutes.
Rutgers forced 11 turnovers in the first half but just one in the second. Wisconsin was unable to climb back in due to poor shooting. On the other end, Rutgers impressed with spacing and shot selection, led by Williams.
Since making his return, Williams has made the entire team better. He continues to create opportunities for others and gets open shots within the offense. His ability to drive to the basket makes the defense collapse and leave shooters open. It is not a coincidence that the Scarlet Knights have improved from deep over the last three games.
Rutgers had five players finish in double-figures on Saturday. Noah Fernandes scored 17 points off the bench, including 5-for-5 from deep. Mawot Mag scored 12 points while Aundre Hyatt added 11.
Cliff Omoruyi was named to the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year award watchlist this week. In his first game after, the Scarlet Knight big man logged a double-double with 13 points and 13 rebounds while dominating defensively with eight blocks.
This victory gives Rutgers a needed Quad 1 victory, its second of the season along with Seton Hall. The Scarlet Knights will be back in action on Wednesday against Northwestern in Piscataway.
The matchup with the Wildcats will be a Quad 2 games followed by another as the team travels to Minnesota. A date with Purdue follows this two-game stretch.
After putting together a three-game win streak, Rutgers is entering its biggest two games of the season. The dream is hanging on for the Scarlet Knights. If the team wants to make it to March, it needs to continue to pile victories and there are two more chances coming up.