Wieskamp's buzzer beater lifts Iowa over Rutgers
What a dramatic, unlikely, critical experience it was for every set of eyes Saturday night at the Rutgers Athletic Center (RAC), where the Rutgers basketball team looked to pull off a comeback upset win over No. 21 Iowa, only to be shocked by a wild finish.
The Scarlet Knights (12-13, 5-10) were down by 2 with 26 seconds left and the ball in their hands, and sophomore guard Geo Baker decided to go for the win and nailed the shot, hitting a stepback 3-pointer from the top of the key that bounced off the rim and backboard before finally going in the net with 3.3 seconds to play.
“I wasn’t really thinking about going for the win, I just knew I was going to get a shot off and knew it was going to go in,” Baker said. “I just saw a little space between me and the defender and just rose up. I just thought we were going to win the game right then and there.”
With the Hawkeyes (19-5, 8-5) inbounding the ball from the opposite side of the court, head coach Steve Pikiell decided to not put a defender on the inbounder and instead double team guard Jordan Bohannon, who had already helped keep Iowa ahead throughout the game.
And to the dismay of what was mostly a scarlet crowd, the Hawkeye inbounder managed to heave the ball nearly the full length of the court. The ball was tipped into the corner and into the hands of guard Joe Wieskamp, who miraculously banked in a 3-pointer from the corner to send Iowa home with its second straight buzzer-beating Big Ten victory.
"We just couldn't catch a break there at the end," Pikiell said after the game. "They hit a bank three at the buzzer. That's a tough way to lose. I love the way our team played. There are better days ahead for us. We're going to get one of these games, but Iowa, great job."
Rutgers will get a chance to avenge one of the toughest losses in program history in just a few weeks when it travels to Iowa City, Iowa, but for now, this game will sting for a bit.
The Knights put together another solid showing on both sides of the ball in front of their home fans.
Rutgers kept Iowa to more than 10 points less than its Big Ten second-leading scoring advantage, while true freshman forward Ron Harper Jr. scored a career-high 16 points while hitting 4 3-pointers in the first half.
“We shouldn’t hang our heads after today. It was a great team effort,” Harper Jr. said. “Obviously this one’s going to hurt us for a while, but we’ll get over it.”
Harper Jr. hit his first 3 3’s in a row to start out and had the RAC buzzing. The fans showed their approval by giving a standing ovation as he was checking out of the game for the first time.
Baker was all over this game, including his nearly game-winning 3-pointer. He was just behind Harper Jr. with 13 points, while also providing offense elsewhere with six assists.
“I thought we played really hard, I thought were prepared to win that game, but it was just a tough shot at the end,” Baker said. “Down the stretch there are going to be games where we win like that too.”
His 6-foot-4-inch frame was on full display as well, as he grabbed six rebounds and had a game-high five steals — the Knights as a whole stole the ball 10 times.
Junior forward Eugene Omoruyi had his seventh double-double of the season with 10 points and 11 rebounds, while adding two assists and a steal to his stat line in the end.
“I feel that if we go every night and play our game, we can beat anyone in the conference,” Omoruyi said.
As a team, Rutgers shot a solid 45.6 percent from field, but saw some struggles from true freshman guard Montez Mathis, who shot 3-11 for the night and also just 1-4 from the foul line — all for attempts were taken in the final 2 minutes of play, which gave Pikiell some added decisions to be made over who should be in the game in crunch time.
The entire game could have been a different story had the officials not taken away a clear tip in basketball by redshirt freshman forward Myles Johnson, which they deemed as offense interference because the ball was still over the cylinder when he tipped it in — it wasn’t.
“Coach always says this is the life that we choose, so you win and you lose games and that’s just how it goes,” Baker said.
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