Rutgers Returns to the Garden on Saturday vs. Spartans
The Rutgers Scarlet Knights will make their return to the World’s Most Famous Arena on Saturday when they face Michigan State for at 12 noon tip-off in the Big Ten Super Saturday Classic.
Rutgers (15-7, 7-4) makes its return to Madison Square Garden for the first time in three years when it lost a close 69-63 loss to Michigan in the same Classic just before the COVID pandemic shutdown the entire world, and changed the landscape of how we live.
“Rutgers nation will be there and that’s the most important thing,” Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell said on Wednesday. “We have a lot of alums in that area. It’s a great city. So excited and you’re playing as good a team, as good as a program as the rest of the country. So excited for that opportunity.”
Under Pikiell, Rutgers is 2-3 all time at the Garden, having lost in the Super Saturday Classic twice (to Wisconsin in 2017 and in 2020 to Michigan).
Rutgers did go 2-1 in the Big Ten Tournament at the Garden back in 2018 with wins over Minnesota and Indiana, before bowing out to No. 3 seeded Purdue.
That year Rutgers was a 14 seed in the tournament.
This season, Rutgers is competing for the number 2 seed in the Big Ten Tournament. They are 7-4 in conference, tied with Illionis, whom Rutgers will visit next weekend. Six other teams, including Michigan State are 6-5 in conference. So the importance of this game is not lost on anyone.
” (Tom Izzo) is as good a coach as there is in college basketball, and he’s got talented guys,” Pikiell continued. “Obviously (they) played much better than we did before. When you’re unselfish and you share the basketball and you’re connected on the defensive end, that usually leads to good results, but we’re gonna have to be that way.”
Rutgers played team oriented ball on Wednesday in a 35-point route of Minnesota. Six Scarlet Knights were in double figures including Sweedish born junior forward Oskar Palmquist who netted 13 points off the bench in the win. Palmquist is excited about the opportunity.
“Man, I’m just really excited. I’m from Sweden, so I’ve been dreaming about playing in an arena like that my whole life,” Palmquist said. The forward was on the team in 2020, but didn’t play; he could get a chance to hit the floor on Saturday.
Senior Forward Paul Mulchay added that he was excited for a lot of the young players who were going to get a chance to play in the Garden for the first time, but added that the focus should be on just the game.
“It’s bright lights, but it’s a basketball court. Just have fun and hoop,” Mulchay added.
Rutgers is 53-59 all time at the Garden having played in the NIT, Big East Tournaments, the Big Ten Tournament, and regular season games against St. John’s and U-CONN at the Garden over the years.
Listen to our special preview on Saturday morning at 8:30 on Fox Sports on the Road.
Then at 12 noon we will have full coverage of Rutgers men’s basketball on Fox Sports New Jersey.