Rutgers drops 15th straight contest in 83-61 loss to Minnesota
Just two weeks ago, the Rutgers men’s basketball team’s trip to Minneapolis was the most realistic occasion for it to earn its first conference win of the season.
With Minnesota struggling as much as the Scarlet Knights had been in Big Ten play — both teams losing their first 13 games of the conference schedule — it appeared a clash between winless teams was set to go down Feb. 24.
But Tuesday night, the Knights suffered the same fate they’ve had throughout the conference schedule.
Rutgers (6-22, 0-15) dropped its 15th straight game — 30th straight in Big Ten play — in an 83-61 loss to Minnesota despite a double-double from sophomore forward D.J. Foreman — who had 13 points and 11 rebounds — and senior guard Bishop Daniels’ 12 points.
The Golden Gophers entered the game having earned their first conference win last week in an upset win over then-No. 6 Maryland.
Rutgers entered with just nine players available, just six of them on scholarship.
In addition to missing leading scorer Corey Sanders, who was sitting out the third of his four-game suspension, the Knights were without senior center Greg Lewis, who was ruled out with a foot injury. Lewis had been playing through a knee injury for most of the Big Ten schedule.
Despite their injury woes, Rutgers took an early lead and held it for most of the first half. A 19-10 run from the Knights after falling into an early hole pushed them to a 21-14 lead with 7:34 remaining in the first half.
The run was highlighted by an emphatic dunk from Bishop Daniels over 6-foot-9 forward Gaston Diedhiou.
The Raleigh, North Carolina, native seems to like making big plays against the Golden Gophers, getting a similar dunk against the same opponent in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament last season.
Rutgers was unable to take advantage of the vicious dunk, however, watching the momentum shift to the home side immediately after.
Minnesota went on an 8-0 in just over two minutes to retake the lead.
The game became a back-and-forth affair soon after.
Rutgers retook the lead through a 3-pointer from walk-on guard Khalil Batie before the Gophers responded immediately with a trey from sophomore guard Nate Mason.
The triple propelled Minnesota to a 6-0 run before the Knights responded with a 4-0 run of their own to tie the game at 28.
Redshirt freshman Justin Goode — who earned his first start of the season due to Rutgers’ injury crisis — gave Rutgers its last lead of the half with a triple with 1:27 remaining in the half, but Minnesota scored the last 3 points of the half to take a 32-31 lead into the locker room.
The Gophers rushed out of the gate in the second half, using a 19-7 run to take a 51-38 lead into the under-12 timeout.
The teams traded baskets as much as they traded turnovers following the under-12, Minnesota outscoring the Knights 9-6 through the under-8 to take an 18 point lead.
Rutgers got two straight threes from Goode and Batie sandwiching a trey from Joey King. The Knights shot 83 percent from beyond the arc, including a perfect 3-for-3 clip from Goode, but only put up six shots from distance.
The second half was a continuation of the first half in terms of sloppy play from both teams. After a combined 21 turnovers between the teams in the first half, the Knights and Minnesota combined for 15 turnovers in the second half.
Both teams combined to hit the last eight shots of the game — Minnesota scoring its final five attempts, Rutgers scoring its final three — as the Gophers hand the Knights their ninth loss of at least 20 points this season.
The Knights’ next chance to snap their 15-game losing streak is this Saturday, when they travel to Evanston, Illinois, to take on Northwestern.