Rutgers got a taste of the kind of basketball it will face in the competitive Big Ten Conference this season - and it was bitter, to say the least. The Scarlet Knights will look to halt a three-game losing streak Thursday night as they host NJIT.

Rutgers put up a tremendous fight against No. 3 Michigan State last time out - limiting the Spartans to season lows in points and field-goal percentage - but couldn't do enough on offense to keep up en route to a 62-52 setback. "I hate to lose and I think everyone here came here to beat teams like that," freshman guard Geo Baker told reporters after the game. "We were really close. Like Coach (Steve Pikiell) said, there's a bunch of little things that if we can improve, we can win that game." Rutgers will look to put an end to its losing streak - which includes losses to power programs Florida State and Minnesota - against a visiting NJIT roster that is off to a surprisingly good start. The Highlanders are coming off a 78-65 victory over UMass Lowell.

TV: 7 p.m ET, Big Ten Network Plus

ABOUT NJIT (5-3): While the Highlanders have struggled against advanced competition - dropping decisions to nationally ranked Seton Hall and West Virginia by a combined 62 points - but have otherwise taken care of business on the strength of an offense averaging nearly 75 points per game. Second-year guard Anthony Tarke leads the way in scoring at 11.8 points per game, and his 3-for-3 performance from beyond the arc in the win over UMass Lowell put the brakes on an ugly 3-for-21 stretch from deep. Abdul Lewis adds 10.4 points and an Atlantic Sun Conference-best 9.9 rebounds.

ABOUT RUTGERS (6-3): The Scarlet Knights were next-level ruthless on defense prior to their three-game losing streak, holding three of their first six opponents below 40 points - and they're still second in the nation in scoring defense (56.9 points against) despite allowing an average of 76.3 points during the skid. Corey Sanders leads four players averaging between 10.9 and 11.9 points per game, but is coming off a 2-for-15 showing in the loss to the Spartans - his second such performance in the past four games. Deshawn Freeman contributes 11.6 points and 9.2 boards, which ranks third in the conference.


1. Freeman has three double-doubles in his past four games.

2. Rutgers ranks third nationally in rebounds per game (46.0).

3. NJIT averages 9.4 steals per game, good for a tie for 20th in Division I.

PREDICTION: Rutgers 80, NJIT 56
NCAA Basketball , basketball