College Park, MD — The 19th ranked Rutgers Scarlet Knights looked at their Big Ten opener against Maryland as a coming out party. They wanted to let everyone know that they are a team to be reckoned with in the highly competitive conference this year. Ron Harper Jr., the Scarlet Knights’ 6-6 do it all junior wing, scored 19 of his 27 points in the second half as Rutgers cruised past Maryland 74-60. The victory improved Rutgers overall record to 5-0 (1-0 Big Ten) in an impressive performance at Maryland, the defending conference co-champions.
The Scarlet Knights had not won a Big Ten opener since joining the league in the 2014-15 season. They showed a major improvement last year going 11-9 in the conference and finishing with an overall 20-11 record.
Harper Jr., the son of Ron Harper, a 5-time NBA champion, has showed that he has the look of an impact player this year. The young Harper possesses the skill set and physicality to be a potential All Big Ten player this season.
Maryland led 28-27 at halftime but found itself down 55-41 with about 11 minutes to play before Donta Scott, a 6-7 sophomore forward from Philadelphia, who has recently emerged as one of Maryland’s go to players, worked to lead a comeback effort. He hit three shots from beyond the arc in the second half and finished with a career-high 20 points, including 13 in the second half. His eight rebounds matched senior guard Darryl Morsell for the team high.
The Scarlet Knights broke open a tight game with a 10-0 run that made it 50-38 with 11:49 left in the second half. Myles Johnson, an impressive 6-10, 255-pound junior center started and ended the spree with dunks, and Harper contributed a 3-pointer. Johnson added with a double-double finishing the game 16 rebounds, 10 points and two blocks.
Combining the shooting of Harper with a strong effort on the defensive end, the Scarlet Knights validated their lofty status as a Top 20 team. This victory was an overall team win. A few experienced guards stepped up big in the victory as well. Geo Baker, a 6-3 senior guard returning from an ankle injury, scored 15 points (6-14 FG, 3-6 3PT) in 28 minutes. Jacob Young, a fifth year senior, scored 11 points on 5-of-11 shooting from the floor.
Maryland’s (4-2, 0-1) offensive woes continued as they shot only 21-of-61 (34.4 percent) from the floor including a poor 4-of-20 (20 percent) on three-pointers. Eric Ayala, a 6-5 junior guard finished the game with 12 points.
“They were even better tonight than I thought,” Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said after the game. “They’re really talented. They’re having fun out there.”
“Everyone kind of chipped in,” Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell said. “I loved the way we grinded the whole 40 minutes.”
Rutgers hosts No. 13-rated Illinois on Sunday afternoon while Maryland gets a week off before facing La Salle at home on December 22nd.
This article was written by Van Johnson, a scout and correspondent for NetScouts Basketball. You can follow us on Facebook, or on twitter.
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