Rutgers travels to take on talented Iowa squad
For the first time in more than 40 years, the Rutgers men’s basketball team has landed a spot in the AP poll’s latest top 25 ranking. The No. 24 Scarlet Knights (14-4, 5-2) found out Monday morning that they were ranked nationally. After not having a winning season the past few years, the culture is finally settling in for Rutgers. Head coach Steve Pikiell expressed his thoughts on the team’s latest accomplishment.
"The ranking is a testament to the hard work and sacrifices our guys have put forth this year," Pikiell said. "We are enjoying this journey and we are excited to face the many challenges that lie ahead in the best conference in the country."
As told by Pikiell, his squad has retained his shared values of hard work, commitment and togetherness as it has been shocking many college basketball fans around the country so far this season. Going forward, the Knights will be tested night in and night out now that they have a ranking next to their name.
Their first test comes on the road against an Iowa squad who has also seen a jump in its rank. The No. 19 Hawkeyes (13-5, 4-3) are coming off of a three-game win streak after their defeats of Maryland, Northwestern and Michigan. They look to continue this streak against a newly ranked Rutgers squad in Iowa City.
Iowa had an impressive win over the Wolverines, who were ranked at the time. Four players had huge scoring nights. Luka Garza (33), CJ Frederick (21), Joe Wieskamp (20) and Ryan Kriener (14) all contributed but 2 of the Hawkeyes’ 90 points in the victory. Be on the lookout for them to try to keep it rolling against the Knights.
This past Sunday, Rutgers took a win at home over Minnesota, which helped the Knights improve to a 5-2 record in conference play. Rutgers had four players scoring double digits: sophomore guards Ron Harper Jr. (11), Montez Mathis (11), Caleb McConnell (10) and junior guard Jacob Young (11). McConnell also grabbed a career-high 12 rebounds in the win. Look for these four to help contribute to extending the Knights' winning streak to three games.
Another player to look out for this upcoming matchup is sophomore center Myles Johnson. After grabbing 10 rebounds last game, he broke his four-game single-digit rebounds streak. With Johnson finding his groove, expect positive things from the young center in the must-watch matchup versus Iowa.
This Rutgers squad has shown a lot of grit throughout the season. After trailing the Golden Gophers (10-8, 4-4) 10-2 in the first half, it fought its way back and came out with a win. When going on the road to face a talented Hawkeyes squad, it is useful to show this type of resilience during any type of situation. Pikiell expressed his thoughts on his team’s toughness.
"These guys, they were playing hard. (Minnesota) made some open threes. We just keep grinding, no matter how the games start," Pikiell said. "17 (points) down or up (17). It's the journey of the game. You gotta love it. You gotta embrace it. They came in here and made a couple of shots and we settled right down. The defense was really good. Defense kinda locked in after that. We got back into the game quickly."
The Knights face Iowa on Wednesday, Jan. 22 at 9 p.m. at the Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
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