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.”
Rutgers hosts No. 13-rated Illinois on Sunday afternoon while Maryland gets a week off before facing La Salle at home on December 22nd.