Sunday's college basketball: No. 19 Rutgers tops No. 13 Illinois to remain unbeaten

Detroit News staff and wires

Piscataway, N.J. — Rutgers entered the season with great expectations. Six games in, the Scarlet Knights look like they could exceed them.

Ron Harper Jr. scored 28 points, Jacob Young added 24, and No. 19 Rutgers (6-0, 2-0 Big Ten) overcame a double-digit first-half deficit to beat No. 13 Illinois, 91-88, on Sunday.

Ranked in the preseason Top 25 for the first time since 1978-79, Rutgers is trying to end a 30-year NCAA Tournament drought. The Scarlet Knights were poised to make it last season for the first time since 1990-91 before COVID-19 canceled the NCAA Tournament.

Rutgers guard Jacob Young (42) attempts to dunk the ball over Illinois center Kofi Cockburn (21) during the first half on Sunday.

The win was Rutgers first in a game with both teams ranked since defeating St. John’s 1975-76 season, the year the Scarlet Knights went to the Final Four.

Illinois (5-3, 1-1), came into the season as one of the favorites to win the Big Ten. Rutgers has to be in that group now.

“We don’t spend a lot of time talking about those expectations. We just talk about what we need to do to win that next game,” Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell said. “And I tell our guys all the time don’t read the (press) clippings. Just stay focused on the next game and understand what we have done and they’ve been really mature like that so we gotta keep that up.”

Rutgers trailed by 11 points in the first half and didn’t take it’s first lead until the final 20 minutes.

“We showed the nation that we don’t have any quit in us,” said Harper, who was 5 of 8 from long range and scored 19 points in the second half. “When adversity hits, you have to stay together and that’s exactly what this team does. When we’re down 11 we could have just laid down and on our backs and just given up, but we didn’t and we kept fighting and we stayed together and we showed that we’re a bunch of fighters.”

Illinois coach Brad Underwood said Harper hit a 3-pointer late in the first half and that seemed to get him going.

“That’s all that it takes for a guy like that to get going,” Underwood said. “When you’re a veteran, you’re averaging 25 points a game, you just need a clean look at the rim. Those are the things that get you going. He got his confidence in the second half and he did what a good player does.”

Ayo Dosunmu led Illinois with 22 points, 11 rebounds, and six assists. Kofi Cockburn had 17 points and 12 rebounds for the Illini, while Trent Frazier added 19 points and five assists.

Rutgers put the game away with a 12-1 run that sparked by a technical foul on Da’monte Williams for an elbow while trying to box out after a free throw.

“We just settled in. … We could score this year. We can defend.” Pikiell said. “It’s a couple of possessions, and I thought we were getting some good looks.”

Myles Johnson added nine points and 13 rebounds for Rutgers. Montez Mathis chipped in with 15 points.

“Our goal as a team is to win as many games as possible,” Johnson said. “Get to March Madness, win the Big Ten.”

More Big Ten

(At) Minnesota 90, Saint Louis 82: Marcus Carr scored 32 points, making 14 free throws after halftime, and Minnesota handed Saint Louis its first loss of the season.

The game was Carr’s fourth straight with 28 points or better. He made a layup with 13 seconds left and a free throw with five seconds, each time preventing Saint Louis from getting closer than seven points. Carr also finished with seven assists and four steals for Minnesota (7-1).

Four other Gophers reached double figures, Gabe Kalscheur and Both Gach with 11 points each, Liam Robbins and Isaiah Ihnen with 10 each. Ihnen also grabbed 10 rebounds for his first double-double.

Jordan Goodwin scored 21 points with 10 rebounds and seven assists to lead Saint Louis (6-1), his sixth double-double in seven games, but didn’t make a field goal in the last 8:40.

State men

(At) Central Michigan 127, Olivet 66: Caleb Huffman had 30 points and hit 12 of 16 shots, while Ralph Bissainthe (17 points, 11 rebounds) and Aundre Polk (13 points, 13 rebounds) each recorded a double-double for Central Michigan (4-4).

It was the first time this season Central Michigan scored at least 100 points.

Derrick Johnson had 26 points and six rebounds and Eddie Thigpen added 14 points for Olivet (0-1).

(At) Illinois-Chicago 90, Oakland 73: Teyvion Kirk scored 22 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and dished 11 assists for the third triple-double in program history for UIC.

Rob Howard scored a career-high 23 points and had eight rebounds for UIC (5-2), starting Horizon League play 2-0 for the first time since the 2007-08 season. Jamie Ahale added 17 points. Michael Diggins had 13 points, seven rebounds and five assists.

Rashad Williams had 20 points for the Golden Grizzlies (0-9, 0-2). Daniel Oladapo added 19 points and 18 rebounds, Trey Townsend had 13 points and 10 rebounds, and Jalen Moore had 10 points and 10 assists.

Wright State 85, (at) Detroit Mercy 72: Bul Kuol scored a career-high 21 points for the Titans (1-5, 0-2 Horizon), while Matt Johnson tied a career high with 20 points and had six rebounds and Antoine Davis had 10 points and six assists.

Loudon Love had 26 points and 13 rebounds and Grant Basile added 21 points and eight rebounds for Wright State (4-1, 2-0), which swept the weekend series.

State women

Detroit Mercy 72, (at) Illinois-Chicago 58: Bridgid Fox finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds to help the Titans (1-7, 1-3 Horizon) earn a weekend split and pick up their first win of the season. Kaela Webb and Sylare Starks added 15 points apiece. Kristian Young and Keona Schneck each scored 11 for UIC (2-5, 1-3).

No. 25 Gonzaga 77, Eastern Michigan 68: Jenn Wirth had 18 points and 10 rebounds and Jill Townsend added 11 points and 10 rebounds for Gonzaga (4-2) on the opening day of the Holiday Hoops Classic in Las Vegas. Jenna Annecchiarico had 27 points and JaBria Knight added 24 for the Eagles (3-3), who were outrebounded 49-27. 

Gonzaga advanced to face North Alabama in the championship on Monday. Eastern Michigan will play Tarleton in the consolation game.

(At) Michigan State 82, Northern Illinois 70: Nia Clouden had 18 points and seven assists for the Spartans (6-0), which led 46-33 at halftime. Tory Ozment added 12 points and seven assists and Kendall Bostic scored 11. A'Jah Davis scored 16 for Northern Illinois (2-5).

(At) Wright State 74, Oakland 49: Kahlaijah Dean had 17 points for the Golden Grizzlies (3-3, 3-1 Horizon), which shot 31.6% from the field and finished 3-for-20 from 3-point range. Jada Roberson posted a double-double with 18 points and 13 rebounds for Wright State (3-3, 3-1).

Top 25 men

(At) No. 6 Houston 88, Alcorn State 55: Quentin Grimes had 27 points and 10 rebounds and Reggie Chaney added 18 points and six rebounds as Houston overcame the absence of several key players.

Houston (5-0) was limited to nine players because of COVID-19 protocols and injuries. The Cougars played without second-leading scorer Marcus Sasser, preseason American Athletic Conference player of the year Caleb Mills, reserve guards Cameron Tyson and Ryan Elvin and center Caleb Broodo.

Jamal Shead added 10 points for Houston. The Cougars shot 50% and had a 48-29 rebounding advantage, including 21-10 on the offensive boards. Houston turned that into a 23-8 edge in second-chance points.

Troymain Crosby scored 23 points, and David Pierce III added 16 points for Alcorn State (0-2).

No. 9 Creighton 76, (at) UConn 74 (OT): Christian Bishop scored 19 points and Creighton had a 9-0 run in overtime to beat UConn in the Huskies’ first Big East game since March 2013.

Mitch Ballock added 13 points for the Bluejays (6-2, 2-1), and Marcus Zegarowski had 11 points and eight rebounds.

James Bouknight scored a career-high 40 points for the Huskies (3-1) in their first game in 17 days because of coronavirus-related issues. They spent the last seven seasons in the American Athletic Conference.

(At) No. 11 Texas 77, Oklahoma State 74: Freshman Greg Brown had 24 points and 14 rebounds to help Texas beat Oklahoma in the Longhorns’ Big 12 opener.

Brown made four free throws during the final 37 seconds as Texas (7-1) survived a late Oklahoma State rally that included two 3-point baskets by Bryce Williams in the final 11 seconds. Brown made a pair of 3-pointers during a 17-0 Texas run in the second half. He also had three blocks.

Cade Cunningham scored 25 points for Oklahoma State (6-2, 0-2).