Rutgers falls to Iowa in close road defeat
The Rutgers men’s basketball team took on Iowa on the road last night in a significant conference matchup with two ranked squads.
The No. 24 Scarlet Knights (14-5, 5-3) fell to the No. 19 Hawkeyes (14-5, 5-3) by a final score of 85-80.
The matchup commenced with sophomore guard Ron Harper Jr. scoring the game’s first three points with a jumper from beyond the arc. It would not be the only time the guard connected on a three before the half, though, as Harper Jr. gave Rutgers the lead more than two minutes later with the score reading 8-5 in the Knights’ favor as a result.
He ended the game with a career-high 29 points, while also adding nine rebounds.
Graduate student forward Akwasi Yeboah also contributed to Rutgers’ early success as he dished out three three-pointers in the first 20 minutes of play. He ended the night with 17 points, tying his season-high
Though the Knights ended the half in the lead with the score reading 43-38, Iowa was also very active on the offensive side of the ball to begin the game.
Luka Garza contributed to the effort with 28 points of his own for the Hawkeyes, connecting on a number of jumpers while driving to the hoop at times, as well. The junior was a force to be reckoned with in a game that was a test for both sides.
Rutgers had won 6 of its past 7 games, though Iowa would surely be one of its most difficult opponents coming into the night despite facing challenging teams such as Penn State and Illinois previously in the season.
The Hawkeyes were entering the matchup with two wins against ranked opponents in the team’s past three games, but would have to stave off a hot Knights squad to confirm their status among the NCAA’s elite teams.
The second half would prove to be the deciding factor of what the fate of the two programs would be.
With Garza’s leadership, Iowa outscored Rutgers 47-37 in the second half. While the Knights kept the game close until the end, they could not keep up with the Hawkeyes’ offensive prowess. Iowa shot 52.7% from the field and 72% from the free throw line.
Additionally, the Hawkeyes outrebounded Rutgers 38-30. In a season of excellent work on the boards, this has not been the common outcome recently for the Knights. At the end of the day, they cannot win the rebounding battle every game, especially in such a competitive conference. They simply need to keep up the effort and not get discouraged by this game’s result.
While the final score was not what they wanted, there were positive aspects of the game. For example, their 80 points was the most they’ve had in conference play this season. Also, their 17 assists set a season-high in Big Ten play.
Coming into the game, there was plenty of excitement around the program. During practice, head coach Steve Pikiell said, “I told my guys, the good news is, we’re ranked 24th in the country -- the first time that’s happened. I am happy for my guys for that and the sacrifices they made to put them in that position.”
It is key for Pikiell and the team to maintain this enthusiasm in the wake of the loss. If they keep up the effort and hustle they have displayed throughout the season, there are still bright days ahead. Rutgers will look to bounce back at home against Nebraska on Saturday.
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