Stout defense helps Rutgers win at Miami, 57-54
CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) — Rutgers blocked shots, forced turnovers and kept the Miami Hurricanes’ potent offense from finding a rhythm.
And at the end, the Scarlet Knights relied on a little luck.
A 60-foot heave at the buzzer by Miami’s DJ Vasiljevic clanked off the front of the rim to punctuate a frantic final flurry, and Rutgers held on to win 57-54 Wednesday in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
Rutgers limited Miami to 34-percent shooting, and the Hurricanes missed 11 of their final 13 shots. Vasiljevic’s shot didn’t count in the stats but nearly forced an overtime.
“Every time he shoots it, I think it’s going in,” Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell said. “He’s a terrific shooter. It looked a lot closer than I would have liked.”
Rutgers (5-1) won playing on the road for the first time this season and snapped a 19-game home non-conference winning streak for Miami (5-2).
“We figured out a way to grind out a game against a really good team,” Pikiell said. “When you travel, you’ve got to bring some toughness and defense. I thought we showed some real signs of that tonight.”
Geo Baker’s 3-pointer with seven minutes left put the Scarlet Knights ahead for good, and in the final seconds they dug in to protect a three-point lead.
Baker blocked Chris Lykes’ 3-point try with six seconds left. Miami’s Zach Johnson tried a 3-pointer that rimmed out with two seconds to go. After Rutgers missed a free throw came Vasiljevic’s desperation attempt.
The Hurricanes also missed a 3-pointer in the closing seconds of a two-point loss to Seton Hall on Sunday.
Baker led Rutgers with 16 points, seven rebounds and six assists, and thanks in part to his defense, Miami’s starting backcourt of Lykes and Vasiljevic shot a combined 4 for 19.
“Geo had a great game at both ends of the floor,” Pikiell said.
Anthony Lawrence had 16 points, eight rebounds and four assists for the Hurricanes. Ebuka Izundu added 12 points and 12 rebounds, but missed the final 13 minutes because of leg cramps.
The Scarlet Knights have won three in a row and face ranked teams in their next two games.
Miami felt the effects of playing three games in four nights late last week in California, Larranaga said.
“The energy level gets sapped when you play as much and travel as much as we did,” Miami coach Jim Larranaga said.
Rutgers won despite shooting only 41 percent, including 6 for 24 from 3-point range. The Scarlet Knights, who began the night allowing an average of only 57 points per game, forced 13 turnovers and blocked eight shots.
Lykes, Miami’s leading scorer this season, was held to eight points. He had five turnovers and four assists for the Hurricanes, who had scored at least 78 points in each of their previous games.
“I was a little surprised it was such a low-scoring game,” Larranaga said. “I thought the way we’re able to shoot the 3 we’d be able to stretch them out.”
But Miami went only 7 for 28 from 3-point range.
Hurricanes forward Dewan Hernandez missed his seventh game sitting out the start of the season as the school and the NCAA review his eligibility. There’s no timetable for a decision regarding his status, coach Jim Larranaga said.
Rutgers plays host to No. 9 Michigan State on Friday, and is then at No. 22 Wisconsin on Monday.
The Hurricanes face Yale on Saturday in the Miami Hoophall Invitational.