Great Comeback: Hartford was getting every single break in the second half. They shot 65% from the field, and every time Rutgers fumbled the ball Hartford came up with it. But Rutgers locked down late and broke out a 20-5 run including a wonderful CJ Gettys tip in to secure the win. Everyone played a role and even when they weren’t having their best game, they still were able to contribute. See Mike Williams’ late 3 that pulled Rutgers to within 2.
The Hustle: Corey Sanders dove for a ball with 10 minutes left in the game. Rutgers tried to tie up every loose ball. This team hustles and has some grit. That is part of the reason, even down 11, they were able to come back and win. They gave it their all. And so did the fans. Despite and understandably small student section, the Rutgers faithful were on their feet and loud. The fans really helped Rutgers get back in it. And the RAC—oh, the RAC—you could feel the old place yawn and start to awaken again. I feel confident saying a true RACmosphere will be back soon.
Miami is a Measuring Stick: Just like DePaul, Wednesday’s Miami game is a chance for this Rutgers team to prove itself. I don’t expect Rutgers to win—I’m not sure they’re at that point in their development, but there is opportunity here. Even if Rutgers loses by double-digits, the way they lose matters. Do they hang with Miami a long time only to fall behind late? Or do the ACC refers, who don’t usually like physical battles, call so many fouls that Rutgers can’t keep up? Or do they get hot and somehow pull off an upset. This is still an intriguing match-up.
Are there 9 more wins on the schedule? 9 more wins puts Rutgers at 15 wins. That means—likely—no more slip ups in the out of conference season. You can’t lose to Fordham or Stony Brook, and then 4 wins in the Big Ten. It’s a challenge, but at this point, I’m not willing to rule it out. 15 wins this season would be an amazing turn around in year one of the Steve Pikiell era. And, that means—after this—-it truly comes down to recruiting difference makers.
Bonus—A Personal Note: Last game, when I had to stay home, I missed out on the Lucky Row for the first time in 14 years of season ticket holding. Well, today, in the 2nd half a Rutgers representative—Mike Greengarten—brought me some popcorn. Great service and great moment, Rutgers. Thank you!