Rutgers ends 32-game Big Ten losing streak, 17 this season

Tom Canavan
Associated Press
Minnesota center Bakary Konate, (21), tries to block a shot by Rutgers forward D.J. Foreman (1) during the first half Saturday.

Piscataway, N.J. — The drought is over at Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights got a W.

Rutgers ended a 32-game losing streak in the Big Ten Conference and a 17-game overall skid with a 75-52 victory on Saturday behind a career-high 29-point performance by Mike Williams.

“This is exciting, man, I am happy, so happy for the school, the fans, and for the young guys more importantly,” said senior forward Greg Lewis, who 13 rebounds. “We finally got one. It’s been a long road. It’s just been a long journey.”

The victory was the first in conference for the Scarlet Knights (7-24, 1-17) since a 67-62 win over No. 4 Wisconsin on Jan. 11, 2015. It was their first win overall since beating Massachusetts-Lowell on Dec. 28.

“One is better than a donut,” said senior Bishop Daniels, who added 12 points along with Corey Sanders in the regular-season finale for both teams.

Minnesota (8-22, 2-16) never had a chance despite beating Rutgers 83-61 on Feb. 23. Gophers coach Richard Pitino suspended guards Kevin Dorsey, Nate Mason and Dupree McBrayer for the rest of the season before the next game , stemming from a sexually explicit video that appeared on Dorsey’s social media accounts.

The Gophers lost forward Joey King to a broken foot earlier this week and dismissed guard Carlos Morris last month, leaving them with eight players, including three walk-ons.

“It is just an example of a team that has been short-handed and they have been going through it for three games,” said Rutgers coach Eddie Jordan, who has been without his big men almost all season in a conference that has a plethora of good big men. “We have been going through it for 23 games, so that is what happens.

Charles Buggs and Stephon Sharp had 13 apiece for Minnesota, which shot a season-low 30.1 percent for the game. Bakary Konate added 10 points and 11 rebounds.

“The guys that played today, it was not their fault,” Pitino said. “It is next to impossible right now with the situation we were dealt to score points. With Joey (King) we could play small, but his injury was the icing on the cake.”

Rutgers, which was coming off a 31-point loss to No. 2 Michigan State on Wednesday, never had to worry about this one. It scored the first six points and opened a 21-2 lead when D.J. Foreman hit two free throws with just under 12 minutes to play in the first half.

Williams, who came off the bench with Daniels getting a start on Senior Day, was spectacular in the first half. He made four 3-pointers and hit four free throws in scoring 16 points, one more than Minnesota had in the half in falling behind 40-15.

“This was their last home game, I wanted them (the seniors) to go out on top,” Williams said.

The 15 points at halftime were the Gophers’ fewest of the season and it came on 6 of 40 shooting from the field. Jordan Murphy, the Gophers’ leading scorer with Mason out, was 1 of 14 from the field. He finished 3 of 21.

Rutgers never trailed in the game, and led by as many as 33 points in the second half.

“It was our turn,” Daniels said. “Like coach said, the basketball gods met us halfway and we went and got the W tonight.”

Williams’ previous career high was 25 against Central Arkansas earlier this season. He was 7 of 12 from the field, making six 3-pointers, while hitting 9 of 10 from the free throw line.