Corey, Unleashed: This is what Rutgers needs to see from Corey Sanders the rest of the way. he found his shot, he got to the rim, he beat people off the dribble. He scored. Sanders and Nigel Johnson kept Rutgers within spitting distance most of the game. If Corey plays like this for the duration of the year, they will find some Big Ten wins.
Free Throws, Free Throws, Free Throws: Rutgers executed the game plan and went to the line enough, but they started 2-7 from the charity stripe and didn’t get much better form there. Had the Scarlet Knights made the majority of their free throws, this is a different game. I mean, this was just an abhorrent performance on the freebies.
The Big Men Just Aren’t Strong Enough: I thought Rutgers matched up decently with the Spartans. Not enough to win, but I thought MSU’s strength and Rutgers’ strength were similar. I was wrong. Even when the big men were able to get clear looks at the basket, they were blocked, a step slow or unable to even get a shot off. Good teams are able to power through hands on the basketball and blocks. Rutgers big men were unable to do that today.
They Didn’t Lay Down: How bad were the past three years? I’m still amazed by the effort on the court. Literally the bare minimum a team can do is play hard. The Scarlet Knights got dominated night in and night out, especially at the Breslin Center. Tonight, while the final score was a blowout, Rutgers never gave in. They kept trying to get to the line, kept trying to defend and do everything they could to slow Michigan State down. This is not a good team, but it’s a team that’s easy to root for. That’s a start, but Steve Pikiell still has a lot of work to do.
Okay, BONUS THOUGHT:
Full disclosure, I wrote the first four thoughts with about three minutes left in the game, with the deficit sitting around 18. Seemed like Rutgers was done, and I moved on to other things. I kept the game on, but was a bit distracted by what I thought would be a typical end game. But, this is Tom Izzo. Izzo hates running out the clock our taking his foot off the gas. With about 3:45 left and MSU up big, Izzo called a timeout. He could have waited for a stoppage in play to take Bridges out. And Rutgers’ defense didn’t help them. Too many open threes, and not enough defensive weapons.
Rutgers has to be ready for these moments and can’t stop playing with a minute left. They played okay for most of the game today, but the score is going to belie that. Perception is reality and Rutgers needs to show the box score checkers that they’re not the same old, same old.
Want more? Here’s Aaron’s recap.