It was all falling apart in the final minutes at the RAC last night. Rutgers had a lead most of the game against the #16th ranked Buckeyes, but Rutgers went cold for a seven minute stretch in the second half and Ohio State took a 61-58 lead into the closing minutes. That feeling that too many Rutgers fans know well was setting in. Battling hard all night only to let it slip away at the end. With Eugene Omoruyi sidelined with a first half leg injury and the defense keying on Geo Baker, there was no scoring threat. This would surely be another deflating defeat.
Not this time folks….The emergence of Montez Mathis is in full gear. The freshman, coming off the only notable performance in the home debacle against Maryland, calmly sank to clutch baskets in the closing minutes. It was huge! 4 of his career high 16 points coming at crunch time. That and a clutch basket by an energized Geo Baker in the final seconds let Rutgers flip the script and the student section spilled onto the floor.
It was Rutgers first win against a ranked Big 10 opponent under Steve Pikiell and a huge confidence booster after the flop against Maryland. It’s also great to see the RAC come alive. The building was shaking for the Buckeye’s last possession, a desperate 3 point shot that hit the front rim. And for one night RU fans can celebrate. Let’s be clear, Ohio State is very good team and in the top half of the Big 10. Taking down the 16th ranked team in the country is a program building moment.
It’s back to reality this weekend. They are on the road in Minnesota on Saturday where the conference grind continues. Mathis showed last night what could be in store for this program. Ron Harper Jr. had a nice game and of course Sophomore Geo Baker came out of his lull with a terrific game as well. This with their best player in the locker room. Let’s hope Omoruyi is not out for long. They will need him. But with him or without him the future of the program lies with these young players. Let’s not forget Caleb McConell and Myles Johnson who are both contributing. Considering RU’s recent basketball history, seeing the emergence of Mathis and the rest of the freshman is a very exciting development on the banks. With Steve Pikiell bringing in an elite point guard next year, there is a lot of promise in Piscataway. Which will lead to a lot more fun nights at the RAC like last night.