Rutgers collected its first Big Ten victory this season on Tuesday. The Scarlet Knights next will seek their first victory ever at Michigan State’s Breslin Center on Sunday afternoon.
Rutgers has won three of its last four matchups against the Spartans, but none of those victories were recorded in East Lansing, Mich.
The Scarlet Knights (9-6, 1-3 Big Ten) snapped a two-game losing streak with a 66-57 win over Indiana on Tuesday. Rutgers shot just 32.3 percent from the field, but its defense forced 18 turnovers.
“The past couple games, we were coming out with slow starts,” forward Aundre Hyatt said. “We made a good emphasis (Tuesday) of, if we’re not scoring, then limiting the other team from scoring. We did a really good job of that, kept the game close and then we went on a run in the second half.”
Coach Steve Pikiell inserted transfer Austin Williams into the starting lineup. Williams, a guard, responded with 10 points, six rebounds and two steals in 24 minutes.
“He’s earned the position. … He’s gotten healthier,” Pikiell said of Williams, who played at Marist and Hartford before sitting out last season at Florida International with a knee injury. “You see what he could do rebounding-wise and finishing around the basket. But steals and defensively, his Big Ten numbers are really good.”
The Spartans (9-7, 1-4) have stumbled on the road the past two games, following a five-game winning streak. They lost to Northwestern 88-74 on Jan. 7 and to No. 10 Illinois 71-68 on Thursday.
Coach Tom Izzo saw an encouraging sign in the most-recent outing.
“Defensively, we did everything we wanted to do,” he said. “If we played that good, we would’ve won three or four more games. That doesn’t mean I’m happy with a loss or how we played; I’m just telling you we played a lot better than how we’ve been playing.”
Michigan State came into the season ranked in the Top 10. The Spartans entered the weekend tied at the bottom of the conference standings with rival Michigan.
“Everybody will give up on us and that’s fine with me,” Izzo said. “I don’t even blame them, but I think I know where this team can still get, and I plan to get them there.”
–Field Level Media
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