Rutgers is going to the NCAA Tournament. Jacob Young ensured it.
The senior guard refused to let the Scarlet Knights blow this opportunity. His steal late in regulation and dynamic performance in overtime keyed a gutty 77-70 victory over flatlining Minnesota in Minneapolis, which should end the Scarlet Knights’ 30-year tournament drought.
Young led the way for the Scarlet Knights with 23 points, seven assists, four steals and terrific defense on Minnesota star Marcus Carr, who was held to seven points on 1-for-13 shooting. Myles Johnson added seven points and 14 rebounds for Rutgers and Geo Baker had 12.
Young iced it in the extra session with a three-point play, extending a three-point lead to six with 40.9 seconds left. Young began overtime by giving Rutgers the lead, then set up teammates Johnson and Caleb McConnell for consecutive easy baskets.
But it was Young’s steal with 15 seconds left that was the biggest play of this Rutgers season.
With the score tied 63-63, Minnesota (13-14, 6-14 Big Ten) had numbers after Eric Curry’s defensive rebound. But Curry’s outlet pass near midcourt was picked off by Young. While Baker missed the potential game-winning shot at the buzzer, Rutgers (14-10, 10-10) was still alive after blowing a 14-point, second-half lead.
It wasn’t easy, which really wasn’t a surprise. Rutgers doesn’t do easy. The second half of this season has been a slog, with three losses in four games entering Saturday for coach Steve Pikiell’s team.
But though they bent plenty, the Scarlet Knights didn’t break. That’s all that matters. An NCAA Tournament bid 30 years in the making beckons. No more talk of 1991.