When Rutgers needed its best player to step up in the biggest moment of the game, Corey Sanders was in the right place at the right time.
Just like he had done all game, Sanders hit the shot the Scarlet Knights needed the most.
After an initial miss off the dribble drive, the sophomore guard followed his shot and banked the put-back attempt with one second left to give Rutgers a wild 65-64 victory over Nebraska.
“We’ve been in tight games,” said Sanders, who had a season-high 25 points on 11-for-18 shooting. “I’ve been in this situation before. That’s why I wasn’t really too worried about it. I knew I was going to take the last shot.
“But again, I just got to give it to C.J. (Gettys) because I missed the first one. Without C.J. down there keeping that in line for me, I don’t think the game would have went how it went. So I’m just very proud to say that he kept it alive for me.”
Rutgers (12-8, 1-6) blew a 12-point lead and trailed by as many as seven points midway through the second half. It came as a result of a sluggish start out of the locker room after the Scarlet Knights led 31-21.
Every time Rutgers looked done for, Sanders served up an answer for the Cornhuskers (9-10, 3-4).
“He was unconscious,” said junior guard Nigel Johnson. “It was his game. So whenever we needed a big shot, he always came through and he always hit it. At the end of the game we needed a good shot to try to win the game, we put it in his hands and we let him create, and he made a good move to the rim. … We were definitely comfortable because he had been hot all game, so we knew to get him the ball at the end of the game and see what he could do.”
Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell commended Sanders for his work ethic, which translated over into his performance Saturday afternoon at the Rutgers Athletic Center.
“He’s really watching extra film, he’s in the gym, he’s doing a great job in practice,” Pikiell said. “… These guys are getting it, and we’re in every game. We’ve just got to learn how to win. Today these guys made sure that happened on the court.”
Rutgers has a quick turnaround with a trip to No. 25 Maryland for a Tuesday road matchup with the Terrapins.
But for now, the Scarlet Knights will enjoy the thrill of their first conference win since March of last year.
“Pikiell was the last guy in (the locker room) and we just came in and he started jumping, everybody started jumping, so it was a great feeling,” Sanders said. “We’re going to celebrate the day, get some rest and then get back to work.”