Rutgers Nation, in full force and full throat, wanted to close its eyes when the Scarlet Knights fell behind by 16 points 12 minutes into Thursday night’s game against Indiana.
Don’t look now, but Rutgers became the first No. 14 seed to reach the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament, which is being played at Madison Square Garden for the first time.
The Scarlet Knights rallied for an eye-opening 76-69 victory over No. 6 Indiana before a spirited crowd of 13,996 fans, many from the Hoosier state as well.
Just a few blocks from Broadway, the Jersey Boys stole the show. Guard Corey Sanders scored 28 points, including several spectacular dunks, and forward Deshawn Freeman added 15 points and eight rebounds for Rutgers (15-18), which will face Purdue on Friday night. Rutgers lost twice to the Boilermakers in the regular season.
The Scarlet Knights trailed 24-8 with 8:09 remaining in the first half but closed the half on a 21-4 run to take a one-point lead into the break.
“They fought their way out of a deep hole,” Indiana coach Archie Miller said. “And we didn’t have an answer for Corey Sanders.”
Sanders was especially dynamic in the second half, scoring 18 points. He beat the buzzer with a three-pointer for a 44-36 lead and exhorted the crowd as he raced back on defense. The Hoosiers rallied to tie it at 46 before Eugene Omoruyi’s conventional three-point play put the Scarlet Knights ahead for good.
Sanders hit a driving shot and a step-back jumper for a 61-53 lead. Robert Johnson sank a three-pointer to bring Indiana within 63-59 with 1:51 left, but Sanders hit a jumper and a breakaway dunk that made it 67-59 with 59 seconds left.
“We got our defense involved, made some steals, and our offense caught up,” Sanders said.
And the Scarlet Knights gave the crowd plenty to look at after all. “These guys kept fighting,’’ coach Steve Pikiell said. “I’m happy for them and I’m happy for Rutgers Nation. We just hung around and toughed it out.”
Nittany Lions, Badgers, Wolverines advance. Tony Carr shot 6-for-10 from three-point range and scored 25 points to lead No. 7 Penn State past No. 10 Northwestern, 65-57, in the opener of the night doubleheader. The Nittany Lions shot 13-for-29 from beyond the arc. In the day games, No. 9 Wisconsin held off No. 8 Maryland, 59-54. Ethan Happ led the Badgers with 14 points. Kevin Huerter scored 20 for the Terrapins . . . No. 5 Michigan needed overtime to beat No. 12 Iowa, 77-71. The Hawkeyes’ Jordan Bohannon hit a three-pointer with 16 seconds left in regulation to force OT. Charles Matthews led the Wolverines with 16 points.