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Rutgers eliminates Gophers from Big Ten tourney

Rutgers Scarlet Knights guard Deshawn Freeman (33) shoots over Minnesota Golden Gophers forward Michael Hurt (42) during second half of game two of the 2018 Big Ten Tournament at Madison Square Garden in New York on Wednesday night. Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

NEW YORK—Corey Sanders scored 23 points as 14th-seeded Rutgers eliminated 11th-seeded Minnesota by posting a 65-54 victory in the opening round of the Big Ten tournament Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden in New York

Sanders scored 15 of his points in the first half and shot 9-of-20 from the floor. He led the Scarlet Knights in scoring for the 15th time, recorded his 24th double-digit scoring game and seventh with at least 20 points.

Sanders also grabbed seven rebounds and was among four players with at least seven boards as Rutgers controlled the glass by a commanding 48-28 margin. Rutgers also grabbed 15 offensive rebounds on a night when it shot 39.3 percent from the floor.

The Scarlet Knights (14-18) won an opening-round game for the second straight season and will face sixth-seed Indiana on Thursday. Last season they knocked off Ohio State before losing to Northwestern.

Minnesota (15-17) began the season ranked No. 15 and reached No. 12 in early December before a rapid slide that sent the Golden Gophers towards the bottom of the conference standings coupled with the dismissal of Reggie Lynch and a season-ending injury to Amir Coffey.

Mike Williams added 12 points for Rutgers and was the only other player in double figures. Deshawn Freeman led the Scarlet Knights with 11 rebounds.

Isaiah Washington led Minnesota with 18 points while Nate Mason contributed 12 points in his final game. Leading scorer Jordan Murphy was held to 11 points as the Golden Gophers shot 34.6 percent, misfired on 16 of 19 3-point attempts and closed the season with 11 losses in 12 games

Murphy's dunk brought Minnesota within 49-47 with 6:45 left but the Gophers did not get another basket for nearly six minutes. During the drought, Sanders hit a jumper for a 56-50 Rutgers lead with 1:58 remaining.

Minnesota's drought ended when Washington hit a layup with 52 seconds left but Rutgers hit seven free throws to ice the win.