PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) Caleb McConnell had 10 points and 12 rebounds as Rutgers had a balanced team effort in win over Minnesota 64-56 to continue the program’s best start in the Big Ten, and possibly an AP Top 25 ranking for the first time in over four decades.
After starting 1 of 10 from the field and letting Minnesota go 4 of 5, Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell called a timeout 3 1/2 minutes into the game and his team down 10-2. Whatever was said in the huddle sparked a turnaround.
Montez Mathis (11 points on 4-of-6 shooting) hit back-to-back 3s then a layup and the foul shot that followed before Jacob Young capped an 11-0 run for Rutgers to make it 13-10. Minnesota’s Daniel Oturu made a couple free throws before Rutgers went on another 6-0 run to make it 19-12 midway through the half. Rutgers made it 23-15 with 6:26 to go before going into the break with a 34-25 lead.
Rutgers (14-4, 5-2 Big Ten) built its lead to start the second half, ballooning it to 14 on a few occasions. Minnesota (10-8, 4-4 Big Ten) cut the lead to seven three times after that but that’s the closest the Golden Gophers got.
Oturu, who came into the game ranked second in the Big Ten in scoring (20.3) and leads the conference and is fifth nationally in rebounding (12.1), was held to just two points on 0-of-6 shooting and two rebounds in the first half. With 11 double-doubles on the seasons, he finished the game with 19 points going 6-of-16 from the field with nine rebounds.
Payton Willis had 12 points for Minnesota.
Myles Johnson added seven points and 10 rebounds for Rutgers, while Ron Harper Jr. and Jacob Young had 11 points each.
Minnesota: The Golden Gophers drop back to .500 in the conference and are in the midst of one of their toughest stretches. This was the first of a four-game stretch that includes just one home matchup – against No. 15 Michigan State next Sunday.
Rutgers: The upstart Scarlet Knights received eight votes in last week’s poll, are now winners of eight of their last nine and 13-0 at home. Three games over .500 for the first time since the start of the 1998-99 Big East season where Rutgers went 9-5, the program could crack the Top 25 this week after receiving eight votes in last week’s poll and going 2-0 this week for the first time since 1978-79.
Rutgers: At Iowa on Wednesday.
Minnesota: At No. 21 Ohio State on Thursday.