There was only one Big Ten game tonight, with the Scarlet Knights hosting UMass Lowell to close out the non-conference portion of the season. Tonight was somewhat of an important game for Rutgers as it could be the last time they're the favorite in a game and this Monday night game was by far the most winnable game remaining on the schedule. With a stacked Big Ten schedule to kick off the entirety of January, not entering conference play with a demoralizing loss was of the utmost importance tonight.
Game of the Night: Rutgers 89 UMass Lowell 66
Luckily for Rutgers, the team actually took care of business and looked pretty good surprisingly enough. The same team that has struggled with a laundry list of bad cupcakes fared decisively better than their last outing, a slim win over Fairleigh Dickinson. The team still finished under .500 heading into Big Ten play, but it was one less bad loss on Eddie Jordan's resume.
Leading the way for a depleted Rutgers team tonight was Omari Grier and Corey Sanders in the backcourt, with the duo combing for almost half (42) of the teams 89 points. Grier ended up with 22 points off of 8-11 shooting (including 6 of 7 from deep), while Sanders added 20 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists. Cleaning things up inside was Jonathan Laurent, who picked up an impressive 15 rebounds from the bench, finishing the night with a double-double. Also reaching double digits for Rutgers was Mike Williams, who recorded 10 points in 25 minutes of action. Rutgers found a way to get hot from outside, hitting 62.5% of their 16 three pointers and shooting 53.7% throughout the night. Interestingly enough, they actually shot the worst from the charity stripe, making a dismal 41.2% of their 17 free throws.
The Scarlet Knights benefited considerably tonight from a combination of outside shooting, winning the rebounding battle (48-35) and keeping turnovers somewhat limited (10). On the River Hawks side of the ball, forward (and leading scorer) Jahad Thomas had 18 points, 9 rebounds and 6 assists, while three of the other four starters reached double digits. UMass Lowell saw limited production from the bench, though, with their backups being outscored by a 29-9 margin. Mix that with a poor 37.3% shooting performance and the game taking place on the road, and it's easy to see why the team couldn't compete tonight.
Rutgers won't have much time to celebrate tonight's win as they'll be back out early Wednesday afternoon when they host Indiana at 1:00 PM.