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Rutgers looks to stay undefeated against Purdue

The Rutgers men’s basketball team opened the week by staying on the AP Top 25 Poll. Bumping down one ranking, the Scarlet Knights (15-5, 6-3) sit at the No. 25 spot on the latest poll. 

After winning a thriller against Nebraska, Rutgers had the Rutgers Athletic Center (RAC) rocking as junior guard Geo Baker took the lead with a three-point shot with 1.1 seconds remaining in the game. 

The Knights’ defense down the stretch played a huge role in the win. The team went on a 9-0 run within the last 2:45 of the second half. All of Baker’s 6 points came within the final minutes of play. 

Despite having a poor shooting night, head coach Steve Pikiell reflected on Baker taking the last shot. 

"It's easy for me at the end of games. First of all, I'm most proud that we had four or five stops in a row to get us to that point. Without our defense it would've never been that," Pikiell said. 

"Feel real comfortable obviously with Geo. He made two shots tonight — two huge ones. Big rebound, (graduate student forward) Akwasi (Yeboah) made some big shots before that. Everyone kinda made some huge plays for us. It takes a whole team in order to win, but Geo certainly down the stretch was huge."

After the horn blasted, Rutgers had officially obtained the best home record for Division I schools in the country, sitting at 14-0 at the RAC.

Another thing to note for the Knights is that four players scored in double figures for the eighth game this season, with Rutgers improving to 7-1 in those matchups. The Knights also out-rebounded their opponent for the 16th time in 20 games. Pikiell spoke on the environment in the RAC post-victory. 

"We're undefeated at home. Obviously the RAC has been a huge advantage. The students are awesome. The Riot Squad, the cheerleaders, the dance team, the band. And then our community. They come out. It makes a huge difference. We needed every person today and they helped us."

Rutgers' next matchup is against Purdue in the RAC, where the Knights will look to extend their home record to 15-0. The Boilermakers (11-9, 4-5) are coming off of a 19-point win against Wisconsin. In that contest, they had four players score in double figures: Isaiah Thompson (14), Sasha Stefanovic (12), Matt Haarms (11) and Evan Boudreaux (10).

Purdue is 0-4 when playing teams in the AP Top 25. The team is also 1-5 when playing on the road. Rutgers will look to make those records 0-5 and 1-6, respectively.

Three players coming off big games for the Knights are sophomore center Myles Johnson, junior guard Jacob Young and Yeboah. Johnson recorded a career-high five blocks along with 9 points and 11 rebounds. Young contributed 12 points in 18 minutes. Yeboah also shined against the Cornhuskers (7-13, 2-7) with 20 points, scoring his 1500th career point in the game. Pikiell shared his thoughts on Yeboah’s milestone.

"Awesome. He was terrific tonight. He's been a huge addition to our program. He's mature," Pikiell said. "We're kinda young obviously as a basketball program. He's our best academic student. He comes to work every day. I'm just proud of him. I'm glad he's here. That's a lot of points. Congratulations (Yeboah)."

The hard work put in by Yeboah has certainly paid off for Rutgers thus far. The Knights will seek for him to contribute even further at the RAC tonight, when they take on the Boilermakers at 8 p.m.

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

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