PISCATAWAY, N.J.- The Rutgers men’s basketball team had it’s best win of the season at home on Saturday afternoon.
The Scarlet Knights defeated Wisconsin 78-56 behind stifling defense, double-digits by five players, and an all-around performance from senior center Clifford Omoruyi. Omoruyi had 13 points, 13 rebounds and eight blocks. Junior guard Jeremiah Williams led the team with 18 points, seven assists and five rebounds. Grad guard Niah Fernandes was on fire with 17 points on six-of-six shooting from the field.
Rutgers started off the game hot, making 5-of-7 and taking leads of 11-2 and 16-9. A three-pointer from Noah Fernandes made it a 10-3 run and 21-12 lead as the defense held UW to 3-of-13 shooting to start the game. Overall, RU forced 11 UW turnovers in the first half and held a 37-28 lead at the break.
In the second half, RU expanded the lead to 45-30 as UW started the half 0-of-7 and went a 12-minute stretch between halves with just two made field goals. Noah Fernandes was hot from long-range, making a trio of triples to push the home team’s lead to 59-44. With five minutes to play, RU led 66-51, and the Scarlet Knights finished off a 78-56 victory.
With the Win
• Third win in the last four meetings against Wisconsin and fifth win against the Badgers since 2018
• First ranked win of the season
• Third straight ranked win coming over a top-10 team
• Rutgers’ 16th ranked win under head coach Steve Pikiell over the past six seasons
• Rutgers had its sixth Big Ten ranked home win since 2021-22, second most in the league in that span.
- The 22-point victory was the largest ever margin of victory over a ranked opponent in program history.
- It marked the third time under Pikiell with a 20+ point win over a ranked foe (20-point win over No. 22 Seton Hall, 2019, 21-point win over No. 13 Michigan State, 2022)
- Cliff Omoruyi tied his career-high with eight blocks.
- It marked his 9th game this year with at least four blocks and third time with at least seven blocks.
- Omoruyi had his 8th double-double of the season (13 points, 13 rebounds).
- Noah Fernandes had a season-high five three-pointers
- After scoring just 5 combined points in the previous 4 games, he had 17 points, tying his most in a Big Ten game.
- Jeremiah Williams (season-high 18 points) has scored in double-figures in all three games he’s played as a Scarlet Knight.
- Mawot Mag (12 points) had his third straight game with at least 12 points and has scored double-figures in eight of the past 11 games.
- Rutgers shot 58.8 percent from three-point range, its best percentage of the year and best since shooting 61.1% versus Northwestern on Jan. 1, 2023
- In the second half, Rutgers held UW’s AJ Storr and Max Klemsith to a combined one point on a combined 0-of-8 from the field.
- Among games with at least eight free throw attempts, RU’s mark of 88.9% at the charity stripe (8-of-9) was the best of the season.
- Rutgers’ 18 assists was its second most of the season and most in a Big Ten game.
- Derek Simpson tied a career-high with three steals.
Rutgers Head Coach Steve Pikiell
“Great environment today, and I want to thank the crowd. They started early and were loud from the beginning. I really appreciate them. The band, cheerleaders, dance team, students that came out, they were ready and so was our team. They did a good job and we played an awesome team in Wisconsin, I watched all of their tapes and they have been excellent defensively. We got contributions from everybody and I thought it was a great team win. These guys earned a day off, so they can enjoy the Super Bowl.”
On starting the game strong:
“I wanted us to be aggressive to start and they were. Cliff Omoruyi had his best practice in four years yesterday and was 11-12 from the floor. Today he was fantastic grabbing every rebound. Noah (Fernandes) came off the bench and gave us an unbelievable lift. Obviously I loved the way Jeremiah (Williams) passed the ball, six assists and no turnovers in the first half. Everyone played and that team was really good. To defend Wahl is a problem, Crowl is a problem, Storr is a problem, and we did a good job on him in the second half. We were ready to go at the beginning of the game and I’m really proud of these guys.”
On the remainder of the season:
“We just keep playing a game at a time. We’ve got the great Northwestern team coming in, so we can’t get too high or too low. It’s a tough league we’re in. Getting ready for the next game is all we can do.”
On Jeremiah Williams:
“He does a lot of things, he can score, he made 6-for-6 from the foul line, and made his free throws. He sees the floor. He’s a really good passer. We’ve been seeing that all season. We’ve been practicing the right way.”
On 12 turnovers:
“We got good length, and we’ve got some speed. JaMichael Davis since he’s been in our starting lineup I think we’re 6-1 with him as a starter. He’s a good defender too. The way we were connected today was a good sign for us. Our defense has been good and hopefully it’s headed to being excellent.”
On Noah Fernandes:
“I’m just proud of him. We had a nice meeting the other day. We watched film together. I love him. I believe in him. I’m thankful he’s here and he can really shoot the ball. He did an unbelievable job today. His defense has been really good all year long and today we got that thing going. He’s very capable of doing that . Every game it takes somebody different and he was a huge lift for us today and he’s going to continue being that for us moving forward.”
On perimeter shooting:
“It’s like anything. We have gotten good looks we just haven’t capitalized. So we watch film and break it down and see the shots we’re getting at the rim. We just haven’t capitalized but we’ve still figured out ways to win games. That’s what I’m most proud of. Some days the ball doesn’t go in and today it went in which is a good thing. You still have to give yourself a chance to win the game. Your scouting report. T.J. Thompsonn did a great job preparing us for this. We had a couple days to be really locked in. I thought we did a good job on (Chucky) Hepburn. I thought we did a good job on (Tyler) Wahl and the guys followed the game plan.”
On season obstacles:
“We just keep working. You have obstacles in the season. Wisconsin has them. Ohio State has them. Michigan State has them. Rutgers is not going to be immune to obstacles, foul trouble, injuries, covid, and everything. We just keep plugging away. These guys believe in each other and keep working hard. That’s how your season goes. It’s exciting right now where we are and moving forward here better days are ahead but it’s not going to be easy. Northwestern is coming in here. They have the oldest team in the league and the best point guard maybe in the country. They’re well coached. So we are on to the next obstacle and it’s not going to be easy.”
Wisconsin Head Coach Greg Gard
“We spent two days to prepare. This is the first time we got crossed. But I thought we were way too tentative, we weren’t aggressive enough , sometimes making bad decisions. We need work. We are aggressive enough. We’re too passive. We’ve seen pressure before, but you’ve got to turn it against them. You’ve got to put some pressure back on them and the floor is open. You got to make plays. And we did at times. But not enough and threw the ball to places that you shouldn’t have no business. Rutgers was better than us in all capacities today.”
First appeared on scarletknights.com