For Rutgers, defense the key against Minnesota


After an uncharacteristic loss, Rutgers will aim to get its defense back on track by taking on last-place Minnesota in a Big Ten contest Wednesday in Piscataway, N.J.

Rutgers (14-7, 6-4 Big Ten) has lost two of three and three of six after a strong start to the season. The Scarlet Knights are known for their elite defense and still rank seventh in the country at 58.7 points allowed per game, but that reputation took a hit in a 93-82 loss at Iowa on Sunday.

Iowa blasted Rutgers for a season-worst point total after the Scarlet Knights hadn’t allowed more than 76 in a game before Sunday. The Hawkeyes made 50 percent of their 3-pointers (12 of 24) and fended off Rutgers after it drew within one point with 8:05 to play.

Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell pointed out that Iowa capitalized offensively on the Scarlet Knights’ 18 turnovers, which tied a season high.

“We don’t turn the ball over like that and it’s more opportunities for them and then they go to the free-throw line, which is one of their strengths,” Pikiell said. “We got to defend the ball without fouling.”

One bright spot was reserve Aundre Hyatt, who scored all of his team-high 16 points in the second half and hit four 3-pointers. Clifford Omoruyi, who leads Rutgers with 13.4 points and 10.0 rebounds per game, had 15 and eight against Iowa.

Minnesota (7-13, 1-9) has struggled since a 4-1 start to the season. The Golden Gophers are the lowest-scoring team in the Big Ten (62.2 points per game), which will be tested against Rutgers’ top defense.

The Golden Gophers have lost five in a row, most recently an uncompetitive 81-61 defeat at Northwestern on Saturday. The Wildcats got out to a 17-point halftime lead and finished with just four turnovers, while Minnesota committed 15 turnovers and missed 10 free throws.

Second-year coach Ben Johnson expressed disappointment, especially after Minnesota lost its previous two games by just four points apiece.

“Didn’t seem like we valued much on either side of the ball,” Johnson said in a postgame radio interview. “… We weren’t an engaged group that was going to be able to make this a fight.”

Jamison Battle has scored 20 points in each of his past two outings. Dawson Garcia leads the team with 14.9 points and 6.3 rebounds per game, while Battle is averaging 13.1 points.

–Field Level Media

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