Rutgers looks to make it 4 in a row against Ohio State
With just ten games left in the regular season and halfway through the conference schedule, the Rutgers men’s basketball team’s season has been a season of streaks — both good and bad.
There was the two-game winning streak the Scarlet Knights (11-9, 4-6) went on to open the season and then the three-game winning streak that followed a little later. Right after that, Rutgers lost four straight.
More recently, after suffering a three-game losing streak, the Knights returned home on Jan. 21 to take on Nebraska at the Rutgers Athletic Center (RAC). Since then, Rutgers is riding another streak: a three-game winning streak and its first streak of three consecutive conference wins since joining the Big Ten — heck it’s the first streak of this caliber for the Knights in nearly 15 years.
This weekend, Rutgers will put its most recent winning streak to the test as it goes back on the road to take on an Ohio State team the Knights upset at the RAC just over two weeks ago for their first conference win of the season.
“We’ve been trying to really drown out the noise and to go 1-0 (every game), that’s what these guys have been really good at,” said head coach Steve Pikiell.
Since their game against Rutgers, the Buckeyes (13-7, 3-6) have lost 4 of their last 5 games, lost their top-25 ranking and fallen all the way to ninth place in the conference — one spot behind the Knights.
This tailspin Ohio State is mired in, which basically started after its 64-61 loss to Rutgers, is sure to give the Buckeyes some extra motivation to get back to their traditional winning ways.
“We’re gonna get an Ohio State team that’s hungry to beat us because they feel like they owe us one and I don’t blame them. (Nobody) likes losing to an unranked team when you’re a ranked team,” said true freshman guard Ron Harper Jr.
No matter how hard Ohio State comes out, the Knights will be sure to match it as they can no longer be written off against anybody — something that couldn’t have been said a couple of years ago and possibly even last year.
During its current streak, Rutgers’ defense deserves a lot of the credit, holding Nebraska, Penn State and Indiana to 69, 60 and 58 total points, respectively — a stark difference from the 88 and 89 points allowed against Minnesota and Purdue, respectively, in the previous two games.
“That’s what this team has done, keep grinding, getting better in practice (and) their prep is good,” Pikiell said.
After their most recent win, teams should no longer look past the Knights, especially these Buckeyes who saw firsthand what Rutgers is capable of.
And with just two starters who are upperclassmen and a freshman class who is here to stay, the Knights are well on their way to being a consistent threat in the Big Ten.
“A lot of great things going on … I think the way we play, we’re a young program too, I can see some big things building here,” Pikiell said.
But for right now, Rutgers’ only focus is on Ohio State. Right now, the Knights are just trying to go 1-0.
“They’re gonna look to put a number on us on their home court but we’re just gonna go out there and we’re gonna fight,” Harper Jr. said.
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