On Saturday morning, the Nebraska Cornhuskers (9-10, Big Ten 3-4) traveled to Piscataway, New Jersey, to take on the Rutgers Scarlet Knights (12-8, Big Ten 1-6) in the first Big Ten battle of the weekend. While many expected this match to result in a dominate Nebraska win, Rutgers had different outcome in mind.
As the match fell underway, a back-and-fourth battle rapidly unfolded. Neither team was able generate breathing room, as the lead switched hands twelve times. However, Rutgers managed to pull away in the closing minutes of the first. The Scarlet Knights entered the half with a convincing lead, 31-21.
While both teams marched on the hardwood to kick off the second, Nebraska was determined to fight their way back. With just under 5 minutes remaining, the score was tied up, 55-55. As time winded down, the deciding play resided with Rutgers. Down 64-63, with just 9.8 seconds remaining, sophomore guard Corey Sanders, drove to the basket. After failing to connect on his acrobatic layup, Sanders grabbed his own rebound, kissed the ball of the glass and connected on his second attempt. Rutgers would go on to win their first conference match of the season, 65-64.
Let’s see what we learned from the game.
What We Learned
Rutgers Has Heart
For years, Rutgers has endured a surplus of losses, picking up just three Big Ten wins in their last two seasons. After opening up this year’s conference play 0-6, many failed to see a win in the team’s future. However, Rutgers entered this match with the strong support of their fans. Fueled by an energetic home crowd, Sanders put on a 25-point, 5-rebound and 4-assist performance. Sanders wasn’t the only player to make a sizable contribution in the win, as three more players notched double figures.
Nevertheless, it was Sanders who would be regarded as the hero of the game, connecting on his last-second shot attempt to provide Rutgers with a long-awaited win. While this team is far from being a serious contender in the Big Ten, this win will provide the Scarlet Knights with some much-needed hope and momentum. Hopefully, Rutgers will continue to improve in future matches.
Ed Morrow Jr. Plays A Significant Role For Nebraska
After picking up quality wins over Indiana, Maryland and Iowa earlier this season, Nebraska struggled to pull away from Rutgers down the stretch. One of the biggest reasons for their poor play, was the the absence of sophomore forward, Ed Morrow. Before suffering a foot injury earlier this month, Morrow was averaging 10.1 points, 7.9 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game. Morrow was a huge impact in the paint, ranking seventh in the Big Ten for rebounds and blocks per game.
Michael Jacobson and Isaiah Roby, each had subpar showings as replacements for Morrow against Rutgers. The two forwards combined for just 5 points and 9 rebounds on the afternoon. While Tai Webster and Glynn Watson Jr. are two very talented guards, Morrow is a significant piece to this Nebraska team.
Deshawn Freeman Has Stepped Up
Although Rutgers has struggled to find success this season, one encouraging aspect that they can look towards, is Deshawn Freeman. Freeman contributed 10 points and 7 rebounds in the the win over Nebraska. The 6’7” Redshirt-junior is fourth in the Big Ten in rebounds this season, averaging 8.7 rebounds per game.
Although Rutgers has suffered their fair share of losses this year, they can look to build around Freeman in future games.
Rutgers will look to build off their first conference win, as they strive to stay competitive in their next match against Maryland. Nebraska will learn from this loss, and will set their sights on Thursday’s conference game against Northwestern. While Rutgers may continue to struggle this season, this win will take a lot of weight off their shoulders. Nebraska has potential, and is capable of capturing more important wins this season.