MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Jacob Young had 23 points, seven assists and five rebounds to help Rutgers hold off Minnesota 77-70 in overtime Saturday to finish the regular season with a fourth Big Ten road win — the most for the Scarlet Knights in seven years in the league.
“This is a team you can really cheer for. These are great kids, from great families,” coach Steve Pikiell said.
Myles Johnson added nine points and 15 rebounds and Geo Baker and Montez Mathis scored 12 points apiece for Rutgers (14-10, 10-10 Big Ten), which took a critical step toward solidifying the program’s first NCAA Tournament invitation since 1991. That was the last season the Scarlet Knights, then playing in the Atlantic 10, had four road victories in conference play.
“It’s just a blessing. We’re just doing it for our fans. I know they’ve waited a long time for this,” said Young, who also contributed stifling defense on Minnesota star Marcus Carr.
Young hit a jumper on the first possession of overtime to help get Rutgers re-centered after squandering a 14-point second-half lead. The Scarlet Knights were ahead for the entire extra period. Tre' Williams went to the line for Minnesota with 1:51 left and a three-point deficit, but he missed both foul shots. With the Gophers still within one score at 73-70, Carr went hard to the basket in heavy traffic but missed his layup with 1:07 remaining.
“It was just about stops. We’ve got to get stops," Young said, reflecting on the team's overtime mindset. "That’s what carried us over to better offense.”
The Scarlet Knights notched their first win in five visits to Minnesota since joining the Big Ten in 2014. They’re 6-6 against the Gophers as a member of the conference, their most wins against any opponent in the league.
Brandon Johnson had 19 points and 11 rebounds for the banged-up Gophers (13-14, 6-14), who lost their seventh straight game to put the job of eighth-year coach Richard Pitino in jeopardy.
“I can’t ask for anything more from these guys,” Pitino said.
Carr, who had 84 points over the previous three games, finally scored with 3:32 left in regulation on a pair of free throws that cut the lead to 61-57. With 50 seconds to go, he swished the tying 3-pointer right in front of his team’s bench as he stared back in celebration. Carr finished with seven points on 1-for-13 shooting, with seven rebounds.
Eric Curry grabbed an errant pass by Baker with 18 seconds left in regulation under the basket, but Young stole it right back by intercepting Curry's attempt to get the ball to Carr. Baker missed a contested jumper at the buzzer, but without Young's play there might not have been overtime.
“It was a good bounce-back win,” Pikiell said. “We're on to the next part of the season.”
With the family members of the Gophers making as much noise as they could in the otherwise-empty arena by cheering and banging on their maroon chairs, they hustled and muscled their way back in the game. The fifth-year center Curry, the graduate transfer Johnson and backup guard Hunt Conroy were all honored in a senior ceremony before the game, though parents weren't allowed on the court because of COVID-19 protocols.
“I haven’t seen my family since the day I came here,” said Johnson, who played his first three seasons at Western Michigan. “It was good to finally hear some noise in the building, for once.”
Rutgers: Coming off an ugly 21-point loss at Nebraska five days ago that put them further onto the bubble than they would prefer, the Scarlet Knights came through down the stretch. They lost four of six games between a pair of wins over Minnesota. They surely would have made the NCAA Tournament last year at 20-11 overall, but the onset of the pandemic abruptly ended their season before they even got a Big Ten Tournament game in.
Minnesota: Despite starters Gabe Kalscheur (broken finger, sixth straight game) and Liam Robbins (sprained ankle, fourth game in a row) sidelined again and Johnson (sprained ankle) and Both Gach (sore foot) playing through lingering injuries, the Gophers were more competitive than they've been over the last several weeks.
Rutgers: Gets to rest until Thursday for the second round of the Big Ten tournament in Indianapolis, as either the No. 7 or No. 8 seed, depending on results from other games around the league this weekend. The Scarlet Knights will face either Michigan State or Indiana.
Minnesota: Relegated to the first round of the Big Ten tournament, the Gophers will play Wednesday against Northwestern in the No. 12-No. 13 game.
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