World news – Rutger’s long-awaited victory at March Madness came in the most fitting way


The clinching game went perfectly according to plan, at least in the context of the 39 minutes and 50 seconds that had preceded it. Geo Baker had the ball in his hands, Rutgers was a duel, the clock was running down and the Scarlet Knights were desperately trying to make something positive out of this possession.

Baker saw Ron Harper Jr. flash under the basket. He whipped the ball towards him. It sure looked like Clemson’s Aamir Simms had jumped the route, wanted to give the Tigers one last chance, but the pass was just tough enough, just awkward enough that he could only get a hand on it. Harper too. The ball could have ricocheted anywhere.

It returned straight to Baker in Franco Harris style. And when that Immaculate Reception 2.0 was over, Baker had a layup himself, Rutgers had a 60-56 lead, and soon the Scarlet Knights had their first NCAA tournament win in 38 years and a day.

« He got the piece read « , said Baker after his 13-point attempt and spoke of Simm’s near miss. “He tipped it. But I was in the right place at the right time. That’s what we try as a team: never give up a game. « 

Resilience was a specialty for this group of Scarlet Knights. A year ago they became one of the sport’s real feel-good stories, fueled by a home advantage in the Fortress of Sound field. This is a sure bet to end a drought in NCAA tournament performance dated March 15, 1991 and a 79-76 loss to Arizona State.

That was two conference days ago. That was seven coaches ago. Rutgers would Coming back to the dance triumphantly in 2020 … and then COVID-19 turned off the music and turned off the lights.

« For some of us have waited two years for this moment, » said Baker. « We feel like this is so should be and we should be here. « 

There were moments this year when Rutger’s ceiling seemed incredibly high. In December, the Knights defeated Illinois, which currently plays the best basketball in the nation. They had two weeks earlierSyracuse, who looked safe at home in its own first round game on Friday night and wiped out the state of San Diego. Even as the season ebbed and flowed, rose and fell, those moments were important to remember remember, as those moments are on this Rutgers team. Of course, there is a version of this team that not only can knock out second-manned Houston on Sunday, but can also make things uncomfortable for teams beyond.

Of course, there are also moments when the knights can look pretty unhappy too . We saw a lot of it in the second half of the season. We saw them being beaten by a terrible team from Nebraska at a time when they were desperate to collect wins. And we saw what they looked like in the first half of Friday, when the Knights and Tigers put together an old-fashioned rock fight that Barney Rubble would have loved.

But the game, in its own way, mirrored the season. When Rutgers saw his margin of error had gone, he stepped forward and hit Indiana twice and Minnesota once to try to calm the drought. When it looked like Clemson was only an inch away a second, the Knights responded with a 16-2 run to get up by 11.

And when Clemson carved the entire lead away, Baker made a critical one 3-pointers, the Knights locked the other end and the red-clad people at Bankers Life Fieldhouse were trying to make it sound like New Years Eve.

« We got a win the old-fashioned way and kept a team to 56 points » said Rutgers trainer Steve Pikiell. « I think that’s a really good sign. »

All night was. The whole season was. That two-year search wasn’t easy, so it made sense that the game everything was pointing out wasn’t going to be either. But it counts anyway.

Now the Knights Houston and Baker’s runner-up Jacob Young will play against the team for which his father Michael appeared almost 40 years ago as a member of Phi Slama Jama. Also, don’t expect this to be a work of art. And don’t expect someone dressed in scarlet to worry about this day at the office ending like this.

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