For the first time in school history, the Rutgers University men’s basketball team defeated a No. 1-ranked team. Thursday, Dec. 9, at the RAC, Rutgers knocked off No. 1 Purdue 70-68 on a buzzer-beater just inside half court 3-pointer by Ron Harper Jr.
Ron. Harper. Junior.
MONEY to take down No. 1 Purdue! 🎯 pic.twitter.com/QSlKDWm1Lp
— ESPN (@espn) December 10, 2021
Harper Jr., a senior and son of former five-time NBA championship player Ron Harper, scored 30 points on 10-for-15 shooting and grabbed 10 rebounds in his best performance of the season for the Scarlet Knights.
“I huddled these guys up, and I’m like, God forbid they score, give me the ball, and I’m going to send them home,” said Harper, a 6-foot-6 senior who came in averaging 14.8 points per game. “Mawot found me quickly and I was able to cut up the court in like three seconds and I threw one up.”
Purdue entered the game ranked No. 1 for the first time in school history. Their reign will be short-lived after falling to an unranked Rutgers team.
The buzzer-beater went viral and had luminaries from the sports world weighing in, including basketball legend and Hall of Famer Magic Johnson.
Just watched Ron Harper Jr., the son of my friend, hit a buzzer beater for Rutgers to beat the #1 team in the country Purdue 70-68! He got the inbound pass at 3 seconds, dribbled past half-court, and pulled up for the game-winning 3 point shot! Wow wow wow! 🤯
— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) December 10, 2021
This was a much-needed win for Rutgers, which entered the game 4-4 (0-1 in the Big Ten). Of their four losses, one was an 86-51 beatdown at Illinois, and another was to 2-7 Lafayette. At home.
Rutgers managed to keep the game close all night. Purdue came into the game second in the nation scoring at 90.5 points a game, third in the nation in field goal percentage, and second in the nation in 3-point shooting. A normally efficient team was thwarted by the Rutgers defense.
“We just kept hanging around, fighting,” Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell said. “It didn’t look like it was going our way a few times and they just stayed the course and made big plays and made big stops.”
Harper Jr. and Geo Baker, when he returns from illness, will look to get Rutgers on track and build off of Thursday’s impressive win. Both put their names in the 2021 NBA draft but withdrew and returned to campus for their senior seasons.
If Harper Jr. can play consistently and help lead the Scarlet Knights to the NCAA tournament for the second consecutive year he will help improve his pro prospects.
Last night’s buzzer-beater certainly has his name out there, and it’s the most significant shot in Rutgers’ unremarkable men’s basketball history.
At 6 feet 6 he has the size and he’s a decent but not great athlete. He’s about 245 to 250 pounds and will have to shed 20 to be able to keep up at the NBA level.
Harper wasn’t heavily recruited by Power 5 teams as a high schooler at Don Bosco Prep in New Jersey. Only Rutgers and the University of Nebraska offered him a scholarship. But he’s continued to work and is showing that he is a good college player with a chance at a pro career.
The Scarlet Knights head to in-state rival, and No. 23 Seton Hall on Saturday Dec. 11. The Pirates are fresh off their upset of No. 7 Texas.
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