Rutgers seeking first-ever win vs. No. 7 Michigan
The Rutgers Athletic Center has become an increasingly difficult place to play for the Scarlet Knights' Big Ten opponents. They hope that trend continues as they seek to defeat Michigan for the first time in program history.
Rutgers has won three of its last four conference games at the RAC, taking down Ohio State, Nebraska and Indiana. The Scarlet Knights (11-10, 4-7) welcome the No. 7 Wolverines (20-2, 9-2) to Piscataway, N.J., on Tuesday night.
"This is a great league," Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell said. "We have Michigan next. The RAC is sold out. Nothing is easy. Teams can go on winning streaks and losing streaks in this league. ... We have one senior and seven of our top 11 players are freshmen or sophomores. We'll keep grinding. Rutgers is moving, and moving in a great direction."
Both teams are coming off losses. The Scarlet Knights had a three-game winning streak snapped with a 76-62 setback Saturday at Ohio State. Rutgers forced only six turnovers by the Buckeyes.
"We're always physical," Pikiell said. "We got a few offensive rebounds, but we didn't finish enough plays. You are not going to beat Ohio State at Ohio State when its two best players have great nights. We pride ourselves on our good defense and just didn't accomplish that."
Defeating the Wolverines would be an accomplishment for Pikiell as he tries to grow his program. Michigan has won all 10 previous meetings, including a 62-47 triumph in Ann Arbor last season.
The Scarlet Knights rely on defense, as just two of their players are averaging double figures. Junior forward Eugene Omoruyi is the team's leading scorer at 14.2 points per game, followed by sophomore guard Geo Baker at 13.2 ppg. Ohio State was the first opponent in the last five games to reach the 70-point mark.
Friday's 74-59 loss at Iowa was just the second of the season for the Wolverines. They shot just 32.3 percent from the field and were forced to play catchup after a 21-2 Hawkeyes run in the first half.
"Around this time we had (six) losses last year. So, it feels a lot different losing since it's only our second loss of the season," sixth man Isaiah Livers told the Detroit News. "We're trying to perfect everything. We have super high standards for our team. There ain't no secret, we didn't play well (Friday)."
Coach John Beilein was worried about playing in Iowa City and his fears were confirmed.The Wolverines are now tied for first place with Michigan State and surging Purdue.
"I can see why they're 17-5," he said about the Hawkeyes. "I was laughing at people, who going into this year were saying they weren't being ranked as one of the top teams in the league. I said, 'Are you kidding me? Iowa's a really good team.' We got beat by a really good team."
Outside of Livers, the Wolverines are searching for more production from their bench. Their reserves were outscored 24-3 by the Hawkeyes' bench.
"The guys that come off the bench have to understand there's a certain speed you need to play with, effort you need to play with," Beilein said. "When they don't do that, we've got to go further down the bench."
--Field Level Media
Updated February 4, 2019