PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP)Winning of the road in the Big Ten Conference has been tough for almost every team. Doing it at Rutgers has been impossible so far.
Akwasi Yeboah had 14 points and seven rebounds and the surprising Scarlet Knights pushed their home record to 12-0 with a 59-50 victory over Indiana on Wednesday night.
”We have great fans and the atmosphere is amazing,” Yeboah said. ”We just kind of made it a tradition to win at home. It’s just a different energy at home. When you talk about the importance of winning at home, you win your home games and you are set.”
This has been a totally unexpected season for Rutgers (13-4, 4-2 Big Ten). It was picked to finish 12th in the league’s preseason poll and now it is in position to post its first winning season since 2005-06, the last time it went to a postseason tournament.
Indiana coach Archie Miller called the Scarlet Knights one of the best teams in the league after seeing the Hoosiers (13-4, 3-3) held to a season low points total.
”They are impressive with their effort level, especially in here, they have this place charged up,” said Miller, whose team was coming off a win over then-No. 11 Ohio State. ”This is a difficult game. We didn’t handle the environment early.”
Rutgers used a 24-6 spurt bridging the end of the first half and the start of the second and a tenacious defense in taking control. During the game-deciding run, it got points from eight players, with none scoring more than four points. It turned a 22-21 first-half deficit into a 45-28 lead and the game was over.
”Winning is fun,” said guard Geo Baker, who returned to the lineup after missing three games with a broken left thumb and put an exclamation point on the win with a late one-handed dunk.
”You can’t really have fun going to parties, that’s temporary,” Baker added. ”Winning is forever. That’s something we want to prove. We want to win every single game.”
Caleb McConnell added 10 points for Rutgers, which shot almost 47 percent from the field.
Justin Smith had 15 points to lead Indiana. Aljami Durham added 10 points and Joey Brunk had 10 points and 10 rebounds.
The Hoosiers shot 31.7 percent from the field (19 of 60), including 2 of 19 from long range. They did not make a 3-pointer until Durham hit one with 5:18 to play. The last time Indiana did not hit a 3-pointer in a game was Feb. 25, 2010 against Wisconsin.
”The game is dictated by the team that sets the rules,” Miller said. ”Rutgers set the rules right at the tap. We had to adjust and fight through it. The game was fast on offense for us. They worked. They pressured. Their big guys did a good job of making things difficult around the rim. We got very few easy ones.”
Rutgers opened the game with a 12-0 run only to see the Hoosiers come back and take a 22-21 lead on a layup by Smith.
A 3-pointer by Ron Harper Jr. put Rutgers in front for good, and Jacob Young followed with a layup off a steal. Freshman Paul Mulcahy added a 3-pointer to stretch the margin to 29-22 and the Scarlet Knights went to the locker room ahead 31-24.
McConnell hit from inside to open the second half and Yeboah nailed a 3-pointer to start a 14-4 run that put the game out of reach.
Indiana: At Nebraska on Saturday night.
Rutgers: Home against Minnesota on Sunday afternoon.
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