NEW YORK (AP) — Corey Sanders scored 23 points and last-place Rutgers won a Big Ten Tournament game for the second straight season, beating Minnesota 65-54 on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden.
The 14th seed Scarlet Knights (14-18) play sixth-seeded Indiana on Thursday night. Rutgers upset Ohio State as the 14th seed in last year’s Big Ten tournament.
Minnesota (15-17) ended an awful season, filled with off-court issues and injuries, by losing 14 of its final 16 games. Isaiah Washington, a freshman from Harlem, led the Gophers with 18 points.
The Big Ten brought its basketball tournament to New York for the first time this season, allowing Rutgers to be the home team of sorts. Playing about 35 miles from their campus in East Brunswick, New Jersey, the Scarlet Knights did not exactly pack the house, but their fans were easily the most prominent and noisy in the Garden’s lower bowl.
Sanders made a 3 with 6:15 left in the second half to give Rutgers a 52-47 lead, and put Rutgers up by six a few minutes later with another jumper. The Scarlet Knights, the worst free-throw shooting team in the Big Ten, made 7 of 8 from the line down the stretch to seal it.
Rutgers: Coach Steve Pikiell is no stranger to conference tournament success at the Garden. The second-year coach was a point guard for Connecticut in 1990 when the Huskies won their first Big East Tournament championship here.
Minnesota: The Gophers finish what had to qualify as one of the most disappointing seasons any team in college basketball had this season. Minnesota started the season ranked 15th in the country, expected to be a Big Ten contender and coming off an NCAA Tournament appearance. At one point they were ranked 12th in the nation. Coach Richard Pitino’s fifth season turned out to be a wreck. Star senior Reggie Lynch was expelled from school for sexual assault. Amir Coffey, another double-figure scorer, missed much of the season with a shoulder injury.
Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights lost to Indiana in the regular season by 22.
Minnesota: The Gophers can hope for a better next season.
Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP
More AP college basketball: http://collegebasketball.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_Top25