Rutgers finishes road trip at Northwestern

Following its overtime loss against Illinois on Saturday, the Rutgers men’s basketball team will look to put a stop to its current three-game losing streak when it travels to Evanston, Illinois to face Northwestern tonight at 7 p.m. for a Jan. 18 rematch.

The last time the two teams met, the Scarlet Knights (11-12, 4-9) suffered a disappointing 65-57 loss at the hands of the Wildcats (12-11, 3-9) inside the Rutgers Athletic Center (RAC), where Rutgers is 9-5 this season.

In that game, after being down by as much as 10 points in the second half, the Knights evened things up at 49 with just less than 6 minutes to play. But Northwestern finished things off with a 16-8 run to steal one inside the RAC.

Now, Rutgers will look to return the favor with a win inside Welsh-Ryan Arena. But like the Knights, the Wildcats are much better at home than they are on the road, boasting a 9-4 record inside their home court this season.

Still, Rutgers, who is staring down its second four-game losing streak of the season and first in conference, is in desperate need of a win. 

As it stands, the Knights are currently in a tie for 10th place in the conference standings with Indiana. Meanwhile, Northwestern is following close behind with Nebraska and Penn State bringing up the rear.

A win would be huge for Rutgers in terms of its future Big Ten Tournament seeding, which is now just a month away. The Knights, who already have their most conference wins since joining the Big Ten, are also trying to avoid another last-place finish in the conference. 

But first, Rutgers will have to get through the Wildcats, who are also desperate for a win. They're riding a four-game losing streak of their own and coming off a complete meltdown against No. 20 Iowa on the road where they lost on a last-second 3-pointer in a game they had been leading all night.

Tonight’s matchup marks the 13th meeting between the two teams, with Northwestern leading the all-time series 10-2. Nevertheless, both teams match up pretty well with each other. 

Both teams rank in the lower third of scoring offense and field-goal percentage, but the Wildcats have the slight advantage over the Knights in both categories, scoring 68.2 points per game and shooting the ball at 41.4 percent compared to Rutgers’ 68.0 points per game and 41.2 percent from the field.

Neither team shoots the three-ball particularly well either, with Northwestern shooting at a 33.4-percent clip and the Knights shooting it at 31.8 percent.

It’s on the other side of the ball where both teams shine. The Wildcats rank 38th in scoring defense, allowing 65.0 points per game, and Rutgers ranks 100th, letting up 68.5 points per game, even after giving up 99 points to Illinois over the weekend.

On the boards, the Knights have the clear height advantage, racking up a total of 909 rebounds, good enough for 66th in the country, while Northwestern comes in at 296th with just 779 rebounds.

Still, Rutgers needs to be aware of the Wildcats’ big men in 6-foot-8-inch center Dererk Pardon, who averages 14 points per game and 7.8 rebounds per game, and 6-foot-7-inch forward Vic Law, who averages 15.4 points and 6.9 rebounds per game.

But the Knights have some big men of their own in 7-foot graduate student center Shaquille Doorson and 6-foot-7-inch junior forward Eugene Omoruyi. 

But for Rutgers to avenge its loss against Northwestern, it will need sophomore guard Geo Baker to return back to form. In his last two games, Baker has shot 30.4 percent from the field and 25 percent from beyond the arc, both of which are under his season and career average.

After the Wildcats, the Knights will have six conference games remaining, including three against currently-ranked teams. 

For updates on the Rutgers men's basketball team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.

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