NEW YORK — In an attempt to rebound after finishing at the bottom of the Big Ten Conference for a second consecutive regular season, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, in their first round game of the conference tournament on Wednesday, dominated the aspect of the game which could lead to the rebound actually coming to fruition: rebounding.
Guard Corey Sanders scored 23 points and Rutgers bludgeoned Minnesota on the glass as the Scarlet Knights defeated the Golden Gophers 65-54 at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday, the second consecutive season that 14th-seeded Rutgers pulled off an upset of the No. 11 seed on the first day of the tournament.
Sanders also grabbed seven rebounds, which were seven of the 49 caroms the Scarlet Knights snatched from the glass as they outrebounded Minnesota 49-28 in making up for their 39.3 percent shooting for the game.
Of those 49 rebounds, 15 of those were of the offensive variety and led to 17 second-chance points. Off the bench, DeShawn Freeman, who did not make a shot from the field in four attempts, grabbed 11 rebounds (five offensive) and made seven of his eight free throws to account for all of his scoring. Also in the frontcourt for the Scarlet Knights, Eugene Omoruyi had nine points and seven rebounds – including four offensive rebounds.
Once ranked as high as No. 12 in the AP Poll this season, Minnesota’s once-promising season comes to a disappointing end, losing 15 of their 19 games against Big Ten competition. After center Reggie Lynch was suspended and, subsequently, expelled from school for two sexual misconduct rulings for incidents dating back to April 2016, and also after forward Amir Coffey missed the majority of conference play with a right shoulder injury, the Gophers struggled to match the 11-7 record they posted in conference play last season on its way to the NCAA Tournament.
In the first game of the Big Ten Tournament, Jordan Bohannon scored 25 points as No. 12 Iowa defeated No. 13 Illinois in a high-scoring affair, 96-87, to record their first win in the conference tournament since 2013.
For Bohannon, who gained national recognition last weekend for intentionally missing a free throw in order to preserve the late Chris Street’s school record of consecutive free throws made at 34, it was his second consecutive 25-point game, as he hit five of his seven 3-point attempts against the Fighting Illini. His outside shooting helped to offset his uneven first half, which saw him score 10 points but also commit two fouls and four turnovers.
For the game, the Hawkeyes shot 56.3 percent from the field (27-for-48).
Illinois, which made a couple of late runs in the second half to trim a 14-point deficit and make the latter stages of the game competitive, were led by the career-high 31 points from guard Kipper Nichols, as he scored 20 of those points in the final 20 minutes.
The Fighting Illini end the season at 14-18, the fewest amount of wins in a season since the 1998-99 campaign which, coincidentally, saw Illinois reach the Big Ten Tournament championship game in Chicago.