Recap of Rutgers Basketball Season

Jersey’s Team Represents the State Well in 2020-21


Credits to Peter Ackerman (Asbury Park Press)

Patrick Moore

This year was supposed to be the year. After a strong 2019-2020 season for the Scarlet Knights, which was unfortunately cut short due to COVID-19, hopes were high for the 2020-2021 team. The Scarlet Knights started their season strong with junior forward Ron Harper Jr. on fire from three, but in true Rutgers fashion, they went on a five-game losing streak in the middle of the season. After splitting their last couple of games, the team, led by senior guard Jacob Young, earned a clutch victory against a vicious Minnesota team and clinched the team’s first berth in the NCAA tournament since 1991. 

On selection Sunday, 10 seed Rutgers drew 7 seed Clemson, a formidable opponent, but a draw that many Rutgers basketball fans including myself were happy about. Rutgers played one of their best games of the season with strong performances from Ron Harper Jr., Jacob Young, senior center Myles Johnson, junior guard/forward Caleb McConnell, and senior point guard Geo Baker. Despite a poor showing from the three-point line, Rutgers narrowly won due to their strong defense and good rebounding. Despite the embarrassing losses for Ohio State and later Texas and Illinois, my bracket looked pretty good and my Rutgers upset pick to the Sweet 16 did not look too bad. 

Rutgers’ second-round matchup was against a very athletic and strong rebounding team in Houston. At halftime, Rutgers was up one point, but they quickly went on a run to lead by 10 with 8:45 minutes left in the game thanks to strong performance from junior guards Montez Mathis and Ron Harper Jr. Now, my Rutgers to the Sweet 16 pick looked even better. ESPN even put Rutgers’ win probability at 87.3% at that time.  What could possibly go wrong?

And then in a couple of minutes it all collapsed. Houston started to dominate the rebounding battle shut down a scrappy Rutgers team. Houston forward Quentin Grimes started to score at will and the Rutgers defense collapsed. Travon Mark was fouled, leading to a free throw shot, which he made, giving Houston a one-point lead with 24 seconds to go. Rutgers guard Geo Baker had the ball stolen by Marcus Sasser, who was fouled on the other end, giving Houston a three-point lead with nine seconds left. Ron Harper Jr. had one last attempt from three, which he missed at the buzzer, leading to a narrow but disappointing three-point loss. Rutgers was outscored 14-2 in the final five minutes, leading to a heartbreaking loss. At least for Rutgers they did not later get embarrassed by Baylor in the Final Four. My bracket, while already busted, was destroyed even more. 

But many were satisfied with the Scarlet Knights performance, including former player Creighton Durry commenting that “Playing on Rutgers ‘89 and ‘91 NCAA tourney teams was a very special experience; however, at the time no one thought it would be 30 years before our next tourney appearance.” He followed that up by claiming that they ended the drought with lots of “hard work, class, and great basketball. We couldn’t be prouder of what we accomplished this year and how they represented Rutgers to the entire nation!”


*All stats courtesy of ESPN*