Playing without point guard Geo Baker, Rutgers pulled off its first road win of the year with a 79-62 defeat of Big Ten foe Nebraska on Friday night in Lincoln. Neb.
Center Myles Johnson produced a career-high-tying 18 points and 14 rebounds and guard Caleb McDonnell posted a season-high 20 points in Baker’s stead for Rutgers (11-3, 2-1).
Guard Jacob Young added 16 points off the bench and guard Ron Harper (11 points, 10 rebounds) notched a double-double for the Scarlet Knights, who extended their winning streak to five games and earned their first 2-1 start in conference play since 2005-06 in the Big East.
Nebraska (6-8, 1-2) shot just 31.7 percent from the field as graduate transfer Haanif Cheatham led the way with 16 points. Point guard Cam Mack contributed 11 points and six assists.
Scarlet Knights coach Steve Pikiell revealed before the game that Baker — the team’s leader in minutes, assists and steals and No. 2 scorer with 11.5 points per game — broke his left thumb in practice this week and will be out indefinitely.
Rutgers needed time to adjust to Baker’s absence. The Scarlet Knights fell behind 15-10 in the opening seven minutes.
Then came the game’s defining run as Rutgers started pounding the ball inside to the 6-foot-11 Johnson and power forward Shaq Carter. Rutgers converted eight straight shots while Nebraska missed 11 in a row as the Scarlet Knights’ 18-1 run pushed them to a 28-16 lead.
Momentum changed briefly when Rutgers guard Paul Mulcahy fouled Cheatham on a drive and then drew a technical when he pounded the ball on the floor with both hands in protest. Cheatham hit 3 of his 4 free throws while Mulcahy left with three fouls.
When Nebraska power forward Kevin Cross made a layup with 5:08 left that became a 3-point play, Nebraska made a basket for the first time in eight minutes and cut Rutgers’ lead to 28-22.
With 3:26 left in the first half, Nebraska’s Mack and Rutgers forward Akwasi Yeboah banged their heads while rushing to claim a loose ball near midcourt. Mack went to the locker room and Nebraska resumed its struggles.
When McConnell buried a 20-footer at the buzzer, Rutgers took a 41-28 lead into the locker room.
Mack returned for the second half, but Rutgers kept pulling away as Johnson controlled the paint. On one possession, he missed a short bank, but tapped the rebound three times until the ball finally rolled through the rim to give Rutgers a 60-38 lead with 10:58 to go. Johnson finished with nine of Rutgers’ 16 offensive rebounds.
—Field Level Media