Monday's basketball: Mathis’ career highs lead Rutgers past Nebraska

By Matt Sugam
Associated Press
Lindell Wigginton of the Iowa State Cyclones drives to the basket as Dedric Lawson of the Kansas Jayhawks defends Monday. Kansas won, 80-76.

Piscataway, N.J. — Tim Miles didn’t divulge his game plan for defending Montez Mathis. Asked what the game plan was, and how Mathis handled it, the Nebraska coach didn’t feel the need to share his faulty formula.

“He did just fine,” Miles said. “So apparently my game plan didn’t matter.”

Mathis registered career highs with 20 points and nine rebounds while Myles Johnson added a double-double with 13 points and a career-high 11 rebounds and Rutgers rallied to beat Nebraska 76-69 on Monday night.

The freshman Mathis appears to have found his way as he now has scored in double figures in five of the last six games. Johnson’s 13 points tied his career high, scoring eight of Rutgers’ final 14 points in the final five minutes

“I’m just letting the game come to me,” Mathis said. “Just playing hard. Trying to get my defense better and better every game and my defense helps my offense. Staying active, doing whatever it takes to win.”

Rutgers (9-9, 2-6 Big Ten) went on a 15-0 run and took a 33-31 lead after a Mathis layup on a fast break started by Ron Harper Jr.

“One thing is we challenged our bench to come in and help us and they made a couple defensive errors… second of all, we turned it over,” Miles said. “We shot ourselves in the foot and we allowed Rutgers – we were in a good spot, maybe take control – right back in the game.”

Nebraska (14-6, 3-5) called timeout with 1:54 left in the first half before going on a run of its own capped off by James Palmer Jr.’s 3-pointer from the top of the arc to give Nebraska a 38-33 lead at the half. Palmer led Nebraska with 22 points, while Isaac Copeland Jr. added 16 points and with eight rebounds.

Geo Baker had 16 points for Rutgers, while Johnson was 6-of-8 shooting and had a key block in the waning moments of the game.

“As soon as I seen it coming, I knew this was mine,” Johnson said. “It had my name written all over it.”

And soon was his hand, swatting away Copeland’s layup and any Cornhusker’s hopes of a comeback.

After splitting games versus Top 25 opponents in a win at Indiana and loss to Michigan State, Nebraska received 66 votes in the latest AP Poll ranking them 29th. The Cornhuskers will need to protect home court versus Ohio State this weekend to recover from the loss.

A much-needed win for the Scarlet Knights got them back to .500 and ended a three-game skid.

Just 12 days removed from dislocating his left knee cap at Ohio State, Eugene Omoruyi checked in with 14:59 left in the first half. Omoruyi leads the team in points (14.6) and rebounds (7.5). Wearing a big bulky brace, Omoruyi finished with eight points and six rebounds in 25 minutes

“To be quite honest, this is a six week injury,” Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell said. “He rehabbed relentlessly to get back. Again, before the game today, I didn’t know I would have him and he said ‘coach, I’m ready to go’. Then I didn’t expect to play him that many minutes, I just wanted to get him up and down a little bit and get him back into his feel for the game, but he did a really good job. It’s hard to take him out.”

Top 25

(At) No. 9 Kansas 80, No. 24 Iowa State 76: Dedric Lawson had 29 points and 15 rebounds, Devon Dotson hit the clinching free throws with 5.9 seconds left and Kansas held on to beat Iowa State.

Marcus Garrett added 16 points and Lagerald Vick had 14 for the Jayhawks (16-3, 5-2 Big 12), who blew a late lead at West Virginia over the weekend but this time slammed the door down the stretch.

Iowa State (14-5, 4-3) got within 72-71 on a driving layup by Marial Shayok with 1:44 to go, but Garrett followed a swap of empty possessions with a layup. Michael Jacobson hit a free throw for the Cyclones, but Lawson’s 3 from the top of the key made it 77-72 with 22.3 seconds left.

Shayok added the last of his team-high 26 points for Iowa State, and after Dotson made the second of two free throws, Tyrese Haliburton made two of his own to get within 78-76 with 7.5 seconds left.

Dotson was immediately fouled on the inbound and this time he made both of his free throws.

(At) No. 11 North Carolina 103, No. 10 Virginia Tech 82: Freshman Coby White scored 27 points and North Carolina knocked down a season-high 16 3-pointers to beat Virginia Tech.

Fellow rookie Nassir Little added a season-high 23 points for the Tar Heels (15-4, 5-1 Atlantic Coast Conference), who struggled out of the gate to fall behind by nine while making just 1 of their first 12 3s.

But it wasn’t long before just about everything started falling from behind the arc, an avalanche that sparked a game-turning 20-0 run that pushed UNC to a 45-31 lead by halftime.

UNC made 15 of its last 22 3-pointers, finished the game shooting 54 percent and led by as many as 27 points.

Ahmed Hill scored 20 points for the Hokies (15-3, 4-2), who made 6 of 7 3-pointers in a fast start only to end the half by going nearly 6 minutes without a basket.