Thursday’s stunning, last-second loss at Big Ten cellar dweller Minnesota staggered Rutgers, no doubt.
But sullying the Scarlet Knights’ NCAA tournament hopes, to boot? Coach Steve Pikiell isn’t so sure as Rutgers prepares to host Northwestern in the regular-season finale Sunday night.
“At the end of the year they decide who goes to the tournament; they don’t do it after every game,” Pikiell said. “I know everyone talks about it after every game. We’ve done a lot of good things. … I’m not worried about (the resume). Everyone else can talk about it; we’ve got to get ready for Northwestern.”
Rutgers (18-12, 10-9 Big Ten) appeared primed for a third win in four games, leading Minnesota by 10 points with 1:15 to play. But the Golden Gophers closed the game on a 15-4 run, capped by Jamison Battle’s 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Clifford Omoruyi notched a double-double of 23 points and 11 rebounds and Cam Spencer scored 21 points for the Scarlet Knights, but it turned out the team could have used one more basket.
Northwestern (20-10, 11-8) also is in dire need of momentum as it seeks to solidify its standing for a possible NCAA berth, as well as seeding for next week’s conference tournament in Chicago.
The Wildcats have lost three in a row following a five-game winning streak. Northwestern is coming off Wednesday’s 68-65 overtime loss to visiting Penn State, which prevailed on Camren Wynter’s game-winning trey with 0.7 seconds left in OT.
“These games can all go either way. … The last two close ones we’ve had have kind of gone the other way, where the other team has made a shot and kind of beat us and we haven’t done it,” Wildcats coach Chris Collins said. “At the end of the day, I told our guys, ‘Let’s not overreact.'”
Boo Buie had 20 points and eight assists for the Wildcats. Brooks Barnhizer had 19 points and seven rebounds, while Ty Berry chipped in 10 points.
Visiting Rutgers edged Northwestern 65-62 on Jan. 11 in the first meeting between the schools this season. Spencer swished six 3-pointers among his 23 points.
–Field Level Media