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Rutgers Falters Down the Stretch, Losing To Iowa 68-62 As Road Drought Continues

Rutgers led for most of the game but fell short in the closing minutes.

NCAA Basketball: Rutgers at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

This was a game Rutgers outplayed Iowa and led for most of the afternoon, but showed they still have a lot to learn closing things out against Big Ten competition. Rutgers led 51-42 midway through the second half, but Iowa’s three-quarter press forced them out of rhythm on offense. The Scarlet Knights were dominating points in the paint and Deshawn Freeman was playing his best game of the season, but frustratingly, they failed to feed him down the stretch.

The most upsetting part is that Rutgers was playing a team that is still learning to win as well, as Iowa features four freshman in their starting lineup. The Hawkeyes average 84 points a game, but Rutgers held them to their second lowest total of the season with 68 points. Iowa committed 18 turnovers and shot only 43% from the field, as well as just 30% from three-point range. They held the Big Ten leading scorer Peter Jok below his season average. There were a lot of positives in this game, but their lack of efficiency on offense down the stretch was the difference. It was an encouraging effort and very disappointing result rolled into one.

Biggest Moments of the 1st Half

After the teams were tied 8-8 at the under-16 timeout, Rutgers clamped down on defense and made two three-pointers from Nigel Johnson and Issa Thiam, making it 14-8, which became 16-10 after a great high low pass from Shaq Doorson to Candido Sa.

Iowa responded with their own 12-4 run, including a couple of three-pointers to take the lead right before the under-8 timeout. The Hawkeyes started the game 4 of 7 from behind the arc.

With Iowa leading 24-22, Jok missed a long 3, but Isaiah Moss grabbed the offensive rebound and hit a big three-pointer. Peter Jok followed with another on the next possession and Iowa had it’s largest lead of the half at 8 points.

Peter Jok picked up his second foul of the game with 3:42 remaining in the half and he took a seat on the bench. After a quick Iowa basket after the TV timeout, Rutgers pulled together a huge 8-0 run to enter the break tied with Iowa at 32. Oh and this happened.

Rutgers held +5 rebounding margin at the half, including +4 on the offensive glass. Iowa committed 9 turnovers and while they were 6 of 15 for 40% from behind the arc, they missed their final four shots from the floor without Jok and shot 46% from the field.

Biggest Moments of the 2nd Half

Rutgers came out with good energy to start the second frame and were able to break down the Iowa zone, before they switched back to man to man. The lead was 42-39 at the under-16 timeout and Nigel Johnson hit two free throw’s right after.

Rutgers continued to build a lead backed by smart offense and tremendous effort on the boards, as well as on the defensive end. Corey Sanders hit a big three and after Iowa hit 1 of 2 free throws, Rutgers led 49-42 at the under-12 timeout.

With Iowa on a 8-0 run and cutting the lead to 1 point, Corey Sanders missed two free throws. Fortunately, Jonathan Laurent had a great finish in traffic to end the run and give Rutgers a 53-50 lead.

With the game tied at 55 and four minutes remaining, Iowa finished down the stretch on 13-7 run. Jok scored 6 points in securing the victory for Iowa.

The Game Was Over When...

Down 64-59 with less than a minute to play, Corey Sanders was called for a charge on a drive to the basket, giving Iowa the ball back and essentially ending the game.

What We Learned

Rutgers is getting better on offense. The bigs worked the high low game often, Corey was often dribbling through double teams in the first half, and Rutgers was finishing on the break in transition, scoring off turnovers. They took jump shots that were open looks and within the rhythm of offense. There was certainly growth in this area since last Sunday’s loss to Penn State.

Rutgers might be a middle of the pack rebounding team in the Big Ten. They held a +8 rebounding margin in the game and held a 19-9 edge on the offensive glass. Iowa isn’t a great rebounding team, but Rutgers showed for the first time in conference play that they can out board opponents by a sizable margin.

Rutgers held Iowa scoreless from the field for an 8 minute stretch in the second half, allowing them to build that 9 point lead. Their effort tonight was excellent, out hustling Iowa and out scrapping them most of the game. They just needed help on offense to finish and failed to do so.

The 3/4 press of Iowa slowed down Rutgers and forced them out of rhythm, which they never recovered from. As good as Corey Sanders was in this game at times, he was unable to finish strong with Iowa putting the clamps on with their zone in the half court the last 10 minutes or so of action. He finished 6 of 17 from the field and while he did dish out 5 assists, he failed to get Freeman the ball when Rutgers needed to most.

Jonathan Laurent is alive and well after a very quiet season so far. He played his most meaningful minutes of the season, giving Rutgers 8 points on 4 of 6 shooting off the bench.

Mike Williams is officially in his first funk of the season, following his 2 point game against Michigan State with 0 points on 0 of 4 from the floor tonight. He did grab 4 rebounds.

CJ Gettys is proving useful still in Big Ten action. He played smart defense, was looking for Freeman from the high post and dished out 2 assists, while grabbing 7 rebounds. He only had 2 points, but he gave Rutgers a good effort tonight.

Players Of The Game

Iowa - Peter Jok

The Big Ten leading scorer led Iowa with 18 points and 11 rebounds, but shot just 7 of 18 from the field and only 2 of 10 from three-point range. Rutgers did a great job on Jok, who was held 5 points below his season average.

Rutgers - Deshawn Freeman

This was the best game of the season for Freeman, who finally put together a strong effort against a good team, and finished with 19 points, 13 rebounds, and 5 steals. He was 9 of 13 from the floor and was under control near the rim, looking much smoother in the post with the basketball. It was very frustrating that he didn’t get any touches on offense in the final 5-6 minutes of the game, aside from a three-pointer at the buzzer. His only basket down the stretch otherwise was when he took matters into his own hands, stealing it from Jok and slamming it down with authority.

Key Stats

Rutgers shot poorly down the stretch after being close to 50% midway through the second half. They finished the game at just 38%, including just 4 of 15 from behind the arc.

Rutgers shot only 4 free throws in the game, while Iowa shot 23 times. Listen, Rutgers hasn’t gotten calls on the road since I was a newborn, but it was a striking disparity in this game. There were several questionable no calls, including a Nigel Johnson shot late in the game where there was contact but no whistle, which Steve Pikiell responded with an earful to the closest official.

They dished out 13 assists on 28 baskets, which doesn’t sound great, but is actually a big improvement from the last couple of games. They need to continue to improve in this area.

Rutgers committed 17 turnovers, which is a killer in any game, but especially trying to win on the road.

They are now 0-20 all-time on the road in Big Ten regular season games.

What’s Next

Rutgers gets a much needed home game this Thursday against Big Ten upstart Northwestern. It won’t be an easy task by any means, but for a team that has played five of their last six games away from the RAC, including three of four in Big Ten play, it will be a welcomed challenge.

This game was for the taking and it’s a very disappointing loss for the right reasons. They deserved to win this game, but it was evident this team is still trying to figure out how to win games against stiffer competition. Hartford this Iowa team is not. That’t not a knock, but is just reality at the moment. Regardless, it was positive to see Rutgers play a spirited game and give everything they had after a 28 point loss on Wednesday to Michigan State. They showed up, but as they say, always be closing, something Rutgers still has to learn. Deserting Freeman on the offensive end will haunt them in losing this game. If anything, this game should give Rutgers confidence that if they can continue to grow on offense, winning games against the non-elite Big Ten teams, home or away, are possibilities. That’s certainly progress from last season.

Box Score