HMG Staff Writer
Washington, DC – Coach Steve Pikiell led the Rutger’s Scarlet Knights to their first-ever victory in a Big Ten Tournament game on Wed., March 8, 2017 at the Verizon Center in Washington, DC. The Knights won a close game 66 to 57 “besting” the higher-seeded Ohio State Buckeyes.
“Just a good win for our program. It’s an Ohio State team and a program that I have tremendous respect for,” said Pikiell. “I thought we played hard tonight. We’ve been in it every game. Really just proud of our guys. They fought all season long. To out-rebound a team like this by 16 rebounds just goes to show you, everyone chipped in today. Everyone gave us something. Everyone that checked in the game helped us win.”
Additionally, this marked the first win for a team seeded 14th in the tournament as Rutgers held Ohio State without a field goal for the last five minutes and forty three seconds of the game. The Buckeyes were held to less than 24 percent shooting in the second half and most surprisingly the Scarlet Knights bench outscored the Buckeyes 32 to 8 during the contest.
“Since we’ve been in the Big Ten, none of our teams ever won a Big Ten tournament game. That was one thing we had on our mind before the game started, said Nigel Johnson, Rutgers Junior guard who scored 21 points. “We wanted to be the first team to win a Big Ten tournament game. Also 0-0 to me means, as we see every year in college basketball in March, anybody can be beat. We always say, Why not us? I feel like we went out today and made plays that way.”
The Ohio State team was led by Jae’Sean Tate who had 18 points. The Buckeyes are 26-13 in Big Ten Tournament games and entered the tournament as the 11th seed; this was only the third time the Buckeyes had lost in the Big Ten Tournament to a lower-seeded team.
“Just coach your team. If they like it, they bring you back. If they don’t, they don’t, said Ohio State Buckeye Coach Thad Matta when asked about losing in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament. “This is a very fickle business that we’re in. Unless you’re intimately involved on a day-to-day basis, people choose the negative side of things. It’s what they do.”
The Rutgers Scarlet Knights continue their journey against Northwestern at 9 p.m. on Thurs., March 9, 2017 in the nation’s capital.