For the first 18 minutes and 30 seconds of the game, Rutgers played some of its best basketball of the year. The defense was swarming, balls were deflected, turnovers were forced. On offense, the ball moved crisply, smart shots were taken, and Rutgers built a 15 point lead.
Then, in the blink of an eye it was gone, and Rutgers was trailing.
The success bred itself because Mike Rice called constantly for a 2-2-1 press that constantly flustered the Colonials. But once they figured it out, Rice didn't call it off, and GW got several easy baskets. Those baskets gave GW confidence, and Rutgers had to dig deep to pull this game out.
It's another game they would have lost last year. And, likely, the year before. But, though they are baby steps, the team is improving.
Dane Miller had a solid night, scoring in double digits for his 3rd consecutive game. Eli Carter, who had all eyes on him after his performance against Iona, had a solid game, totally 13 points and only turning the ball over once. Carter missed a wide open 3 with about two minutes left that would have been the dagger.
Instead, the game came down to the the final seconds. Wally Judge drew a charge that changed momentum. Myles Mack got fouled while Rutgers was up only 1 and made both free throws. GW missed a covered, desperation 3 at the end of the game.
So, what does one take from this?
Tough to tell. There is improvement, but it's not cohesive improvement. The team looks better, but they don't quite function as one unit left. The Big East season is looming, and at 6-2, Rutgers has a chance to be rolling into the Syracuse game.
But there's still a lot of work to do.
Hopefully, Rutgers gets it done.