Mathis' career highs lead Rutgers past Nebraska 76-69
By MATT SUGAM
PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) Tim Miles didn't divulge his game plan for defending Montez Mathis. Asked what the game plan was, and how Mathis handled it, the Nebraska coach didn't feel the need to share his faulty formula.
"He did just fine," Miles said. "So apparently my game plan didn't matter."
Mathis registered career highs with 20 points and nine rebounds while Myles Johnson added a double-double with 13 points and a career-high 11 rebounds and Rutgers rallied to beat Nebraska 76-69 on Monday night.
The freshman Mathis appears to have found his way as he now has scored in double figures in five of the last six games. Johnson's 13 points tied his career high, scoring eight of Rutgers' final 14 points in the final five minutes
"I'm just letting the game come to me," Mathis said. "Just playing hard. Trying to get my defense better and better every game and my defense helps my offense. Staying active, doing whatever it takes to win."
Rutgers (9-9, 2-6 Big Ten) went on a 15-0 run and took a 33-31 lead after a Mathis layup on a fast break started by Ron Harper Jr.
"One thing is we challenged our bench to come in and help us and they made a couple defensive errors... second of all, we turned it over," Miles said. "We shot ourselves in the foot and we allowed Rutgers - we were in a good spot, maybe take control - right back in the game."
Nebraska (14-6, 3-5) called timeout with 1:54 left in the first half before going on a run of its own capped off by James Palmer Jr.'s 3-pointer from the top of the arc to give Nebraska a 38-33 lead at the half. Palmer led Nebraska with 22 points, while Isaac Copeland Jr. added 16 points and with eight rebounds.
Geo Baker had 16 points for Rutgers, while Johnson was 6-of-8 shooting and had a key block in the waning moments of the game.
"As soon as I seen it coming, I knew this was mine," Johnson said. "It had my name written all over it."
And soon was his hand, swatting away Copeland's layup and any Cornhusker's hopes of a comeback.
Nebraska: After splitting games versus Top 25 opponents in a win at Indiana and loss to Michigan State, Nebraska received 66 votes in the latest AP Poll ranking them 29th. The Cornhuskers will need to protect home court versus Ohio State this weekend to recover from the loss.
Rutgers: A much-needed win for the Scarlet Knights got them back to .500 and ended a three-game skid.
Just 12 days removed from dislocating his left knee cap Ohio State, Eugene Omoruyi checked in with 14:59 left in the first half. Omoruyi leads the team in points (14.6) and rebounds (7.5). Wearing a big bulky brace, Omoruyi finished with eight points and six rebounds in 25 minutes
"To be quite honest, this is a six week injury," Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell said. "He rehabbed relentlessly to get back. Again, before the game today, I didn't know I would have him and he said `coach, I'm ready to go'. Then I didn't expect to play him that many minutes, I just wanted to get him up and down a little bit and get him back into his feel for the game, but he did a really good job. It's hard to take him out."
YOUTH VS. EXPERIENCE
Rutgers has one of the youngest teams in the nation with just a little more than a year of experience, ranking 318th in the country. The Scarlet Knights have just one senior. With three senior starters, Nebraska averages a little more than two years of player experience - 34th in the nation.
Nebraska: Hosts Ohio State Saturday.
Rutgers: Travels to Penn State Saturday.
Updated January 21, 2019