Rutgers never was going to be taken seriously in the Big Ten without transforming the RAC into a daunting place to play for its storied opponents in one of the nation’s top conferences.
Steve Pikiell’s upstart Scarlet Knights knocked off another big-name rival Wednesday night, downing Indiana, 59-50, to improve to 12-0 at home this season. Rutgers, which had dropped its previous game at Illinois, also has defeated ranked opponents Seton Hall and Penn State on its Piscataway campus in the past month.
The Scarlet Knights have won 20 or more games just once since 1983 (2004) — and they haven’t made the NCAA Tournament since 1991 — but Pikiell’s squad is tied for second in the Big Ten at 4-2, one game behind Michigan State before Sunday’s visit by Minnesota.
Graduate transfer Akwasi Yeboah led Rutgers (13-4 overall) with 14 points and seven rebounds, while junior guard Geo Baker returned after missing three games with a thumb injury and scored seven points with four assists in 22 minutes, including an emphatic dunk with 2 minutes 10 seconds remaining.
The RAC was rocking as Rutgers netted the first 12 points of the game, despite none from Ron Harper Jr., its leading scorer. Indiana stormed back to grab a 22-21 lead with 6:55 remaining, but the Scarlet Knights closed the half on a 10-2 run for a seven-point cushion at intermission.
A 3-pointer by Yeboah — who transferred in from Stony Brook, Pikiell’s previous school — and a lob-pass dunk by Shaq Carter keyed the continuance of that spurt to open the second half as Rutgers extended its lead to 17. Aljami Durham’s three drew the Hoosiers as close as seven with barely five minutes remaining.
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