Mon, 23 May 2022

Rutgers, Ron Harper Jr. look to extend Minnesota's slump

Field Level Media
22 Jan 2022, 04:19 GMT+10

Minnesota hasn't won since December and could be seriously undermanned when Ron Harper Jr. leads Rutgers into Minneapolis for a Big Ten Conference contest on Saturday afternoon.

The Golden Gophers (10-5, 1-5 Big Ten) are 0-4 in January. They only had seven scholarship players available for an 81-71 loss to Iowa last Sunday and then were forced to postpone Wednesday's game at Penn State.

It is unclear how many players Minnesota will have on Saturday due to COVID-19 and other illnesses and injuries.

Playing against the Hawkeyes without Eric Curry and Sean Sutherlin, their No. 4 and 5 scorers, the Gophers managed to whittle a 23-point deficit to three in the final minute before fading down the stretch.

"We just ran out of time," coach Ben Johnson said.

Johnson put a positive spin on the situation, noting that seldom-used players like 7-foot freshman center Treyton Thompson gained valuable experience. Thompson had eight points off the bench against Iowa.

"Anytime you can add depth, you always want to do that," Johnson said. "Your teammates now have confidence in you."

Rutgers (11-6, 5-2) is just 1-5 on the road so far this season. The Scarlet Knights have won two straight and six of their last seven overall, including Wednesday's 48-46 win against Iowa.

"We've got a long way to go," Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell said afterward, "(and) a lot of season left, but we're figuring out ways (to win)."

The Scarlet Knights benefited from a controversial whistle by an official who called a touch foul on Iowa's Keegan Murray, who was guarding Harper 25 feet from the basket. Harper, who averages 16.5 points, sank two foul shots with two seconds left.

"We got a good call. I feel like he fouled me," Harper said. "My teammates trust me to come through in those moments."

Harper and Geo Baker (10.9 points) will be the defensive focus for Minnesota. Rutgers must stop Jamison Battle (18.0 points) and E.J. Stephens (12.0), who played all 40 minutes against the Hawkeyes and scored 22 points.

--Field Level Media

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