INDIANAPOLIS — Geo Baker spent part of this week using his voice to raise awareness about inequities in college sports.
He’ll get to use his platform for a couple more days after helping Rutgers to its first NCAA Tournament victory in 38 years.
Baker scored 13 points, including the decisive layup with 10 seconds left, and the 10th-seeded Scarlet Knights toppled No. 7 seed Clemson 60-56 on Friday night in the Midwest Region.
Rutgers (16-11) was last selected for the NCAAs in 1991, an appearance that ended with a first-round loss to Arizona State. The Scarlet Knights’ last victory in the tournament came in 1983 against a school that’s since changed its name from Southwest Louisiana to just Louisiana.
The drought is over for Rutgers, which will face No. 2 seed Houston on Sunday.
Jacob Young and Caleb McConnell both added 13 points and Ron Harper Jr. added 10 points. Baker scored the final five points for Rutgers after the Scarlet Knights built an 11-point lead and nearly gave it all away.
Aamir Sims led Clemson (16-8) with 15 points, but was held in check for most of the second half. Clyde Trapp had 12 of his 14 points after halftime, but the Tigers failed to make a shot the final four minutes.
Baker has been one of the loudest voices on social media this week during a coordinated effort among some players to raise awareness about inequities in college sports. The players got (hash)NotNCAAProperty trending on social media as they called for rules changes and requested meetings with the NCAA president and lawmakers.
When it came time for the game, Baker was focused on getting Rutgers its sixth-ever tournament victory.
The Scarlet Knights brought the 1,000 or so fans decked out in red and white inside Bankers Life Fieldhouse to their feet midway through the second half with a 16-2 run to take control.
Young’s 3-pointer gave Rutgers a 39-37 lead, its first since its was 19-17. McConnell’s 3-pointer gave the Scarlet Knights their largest lead at 50-39 lead with 9:35 left.
But Clemson chipped away. After going scoreless in the half, Sims converted a pair of three-point plays, and Trapp’s three-point play with 4:12 left made it 55-55.
That was the final made field goal for Clemson. Baker’s 3-pointer out of a timeout pushed Rutgers back in front. Clemson’s missed its last four shots and had a pair of turnovers, including Sims being called for traveling with 43 seconds left.