New York — For the first time since joining the Big Ten, Rutgers looks as if it belongs.
Corey Sanders scored 28 points and last-place Rutgers upset Indiana 76-69 Thursday night to advance to the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament. The 14th-seeded Scarlet Knights (15-18) face third seed and No. 8 Purdue at Madison Square Garden in the final game of Friday's quadruple-header.
"It was great playing at home, especially for the seniors," Sanders said.
A lot of people laugh at the thought of Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, being New York's Big Ten team but it has certainly felt that way the last two nights at the Garden.
The Hoosiers (16-15) started the game on a 17-3 run, but were manhandled for the most part by Rutgers over the final 30 minutes.
"We just showed everybody that it's not the same Rutgers that's going to keel over and die," said Mike Williams, a senior from Brooklyn. "This is March Madness, man."
Rutgers led by seven with 10 minutes left in the second half, but the Hoosiers had it tied less than two minutes later. Indiana never could get the lead back. Back-to-back buckets by Sanders had Rutgers up by three and Geo Baker's 3 from the left wing made it 56-50 for the Scarlet Knights with 5:12 left.
A runner off the glass by Sanders put Rutgers up six with 1:23 left and 15 seconds later his breakaway slam made it 67-59 and brought down chants of "Let's Go Rutgers!" and "R-U!" from the partisan crowd. One more slam by Sanders, this time on a baseline drive that had just a touch of former Knicks star John Starks in it, capped Rutgers biggest basketball victory in decades.
Sanders had 23 points in a victory against Minnesota on Wednesday night.
"I think he has something to prove here," Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell said.
Rutgers has won two games in a single conference tournament for the first time since 1998 in the Big East. The last time Rutgers won three conference tournament games was 1989 in the Atlantic 10.
The Hoosiers raced out to a 24-8 lead, getting to the basket with ease. With 7:28 left in the first half, Rutgers had more turnovers (five) than field goals (three) and Sanders was 0 for 4.
"I think we were shooting 11 percent at the time and I looked up and they were shooting like 54 percent at that time," Sanders said. "We weren't getting enough stops and our defense had to kick in so our offense could get going."
Sanders led the Rutgers rally at the end of the first half, scoring 10 points, including a right-handed slam off a steal. The Scarlet Knights closed with a 17-2 run and led 29-28 at halftime.
"I think it just comes down to us not getting enough stops," said Juwan Morgan, who led Indiana with 15 points and nine rebounds.
More Big Ten tournament
Wisconsin 59, Maryland 54: Brevin Pritzl broke a tie with a foul-line jumper with 28 seconds left and Khalil Iverson secured the win with a steal in the waning seconds for Wisconsin (15-17).
Ethan Happ had 14 points and seven rebounds for Wisconsin, which has won five of seven. Davison finished with 13 points while Iverson had 11 and six rebounds and Pritzl 10 points.
Kevin Huerter had 20 points for Maryland (19-13), which has lost seven of its last 11 games.
Penn State 65, Northwestern 57: Tony Carr scored 25, including two 3-pointers and set up another in the final minutes for Penn State (20-12).
Josh Reaves finished with 15 points and Shep Garner had 12.
Dererk Pardon has 14 points and eight rebounds for Northwestern (15-17).
No. 1 Virginia 67, (at) Louisville 66: De’Andre Hunter’s 3-pointer as time expired made the Cavaliers the first Atlantic Coast Conference team to go 9-0 on the road in league play.
The Cavaliers (27-2, 16-1) tied the game at 58 with 2 minutes left and overcame another five-point deficit in the final minute. Louisville led 66-64 and tried to inbounds with .9 seconds left, but Virginia got the ball after Deng Adel was called for traveling on the baseline.
After a timeout, Hunter got the ball and sank a long 3 that banked in at the horn.
Ty Jerome scored 21 points for Virginia.
Adel had 18 points for Louisville (19-11, 9-8).
No. 10 Cincinnati 78, (at) Tulane 49: Kyle Washington had 16 points, seven rebounds and two blocks, and Cincinnati clinched a share of the American Athletic Conference title.
Cane Broome scored 13 for the Bearcats (26-4, 15-2), whose stifling defensive play helped them build leads as large as 19 in the first half and 33 in the second.
The Bearcats can clinch the title outright with a victory at No. 11 Wichita State on Sunday.
Melvin Frazier scored 13 points for Tulane (14-15, 5-12).
No. 11 Wichita State 75, (at) UCF 71, OT: Shaquille Morris scored 19 points and Conner Frankamp added 16 for Wichita State.
Landry Shamet scored 14 points and had six assists for the Shockers (24-5, 14-3 American Athletic Conference), who have won seven straight.
A.J. Davis led UCF (17-12, 8-9) with 31 points, including a desperation 3-pointer with .7 seconds left in regulation that sent the game into overtime. B.J. Taylor scored 23 for the Knights, who lost their third straight.
(At) No. 24 Middle Tennessee 82, Western Kentucky 64: Brandon Walters scored 18 points and grabbed 11 rebounds as Middle Tennessee clinched its second straight Conference USA title.
Nick King scored 18 points and had nine rebounds for the Blue Raiders (24-5, 16-1), who cracked the national rankings for the first time in school history last week.
Middle Tennessee shot 55 percent from the field, extending its winning streak to 11.
Lamonte Bearden led the Hilltoppers (22-8, 14-3) with 24 points. The loss ended Western Kentucky’s six-game winning streak.
Miller staying at Arizona
When Arizona hastily called a news conference on Thursday afternoon, it appeared coach Sean Miller’s tenure in Tucson could be coming to an end.
Instead, Miller vehemently denied a report claiming he discussed a six-figure payment to a recruit. Less than three hours later, the school president announced Miller will remain as the 19th-ranked Wildcats’ coach.
“We have no reason to believe Miller violated NCAA rules or the law,” university President Robert C. Robbins said after an Arizona Board of Regents meeting Thursday afternoon. “We will continue to pursue every avenue of inquiry available to us during this active and federal investigation to fully understand the facts.”
ESPN reported last Friday, using anonymous sources, that the FBI had Miller on a wiretap discussing a $100,000 payment to Wildcats freshman Deandre Ayton to attend the school. Miller made a statement to the media inside Arizona’s McKale Center on Thursday, denying the report and saying he looked forward to shifting his focus back to basketball.
“There was no such conversation,” Miller said. “These statements have damaged me, my family, the university, Deandre Ayton and his incredible family.”
Robbins said he and athletic director Dave Heeke decided to keep Miller on after having face-to-face discussions with the coach and going over investigations conducted by the school and federal authorities.
“Coach Miller is our coach,” Robbins said. “He has a contract and we’ll be moving forward.”