Rutgers has been two different teams this year — the juggernaut that dominates at home and the distracted, sketchy outfit that shows up on the road.
On Saturday afternoon, Rutgers (9-6, 3-2 Big Ten) will try to discover what it takes to win away from Piscataway, N.J., when it travels to Maryland (9-7, 1-4).
At home, the Scarlet Knights are 9-1, including a December victory over then-No. 1 Purdue. But that doesn’t square with their 0-5 record on the road, which includes two unsightly defeats in the conference — 86-51 at Illinois on Dec. 3 and 66-49 at Penn State on Tuesday.
Before the most recent game was 10 minutes old, Rutgers was down by 12. Overall, the Nittany Lions outshot the Scarlet Knights from the floor, 43.3 percent to 33.9 percent; the 3-point arc, 33.3 percent to 26.3 percent; and the free-throw line, 80 percent to 50 percent.
“They punched us early,” Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell said. “I didn’t want to settle for jump shots in this game, I wanted us driving downhill. We’ve been sharing the ball at an epic level. We didn’t have that tonight.”
The Scarlet Knights notched Big Ten road wins last year at Northwestern, Maryland, Minnesota and Indiana. They also won first-round games in Indianapolis in both the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments. With a veteran lineup led by Ron Harper Jr. (15.7 points, 6.9 rebounds per game) and Geo Baker (11.5 points, 4.1 assists), performing well on the road is a reasonable expectation.
Maryland came through away from home on Wednesday night, posting a 94-87 double-overtime win at Northwestern. Eric Ayala notched career highs in points (26) and rebounds (11), while Fatts Russell scored 21 of his 23 points after intermission.
In snapping a three-game skid, the Terrapins blew a six-point lead at the end of regulation when they surrendered six points in a four-second span. However, Maryland recovered in the second extra session.
“This game is a testament of what we’ve been going through all year. We’ve gone through a lot of adversity. This is the fight that we have,” Russell said. “I feel like we’re gonna get this thing rolling in the second half of the season.”