There are now ten games left in the season and after losing 62-47 today the Michigan Wolverines, the Scarlet Knights face their most important stretch of the season—home for Nebraska and then a trip to Penn State. Was this afternoon another sign of bad things to come or just another bump in the road as part of the build?
Rutgers Couldn’t Get Anyone Going: Corey Sanders was in foul trouble for a lot of the game. Geo Baker and Issa Thiam weren’t really able to get open from beyond the arc. Deshawn Freeman forced a lot of shots. The ball stuck in players hands and no one found a way to move the ball for easy shots. Therefore the Scarlet Knights were never able to have much of a run in the game. Rutgers finished the game with only 1 assist. With an offense that isn’t know for lighting up the scoreboard, you need ball movement to help make it easier. Isolation isn’t going to get it done.
John Beilein is a Great Coach: This isn’t a vintage Michigan team, but they are still ranked in the Top 25. But Beilein is smart. He knew that if he kept Sanders out of the lane and limited the looks for Baker and Thiam, Rutgers wouldn’t have much other choice than to feed Deshawn Freeman. Freeman’s best bet would have been to vary it up, taking the shots when they were there and other times drawing a double team and passing out of it. He took his shots most of the time, as that’s more his game. Beilein knew this and used it to the Wolverine’s advantage. In the postgame, Pikiell disagreed with me and thought Beilein didn’t want Rutgers to get the ball inside.
Rutgers Played Great Defense: Michigan is the type of team that can just explode on you offensively. Rutgers didn’t allow that to happen. Instead, Michigan had to grind it out and take advantages of Rutgers bad offense. They did, but the Scarlet Knights still slowed Michigan way down. They weren’t able to get out and run. While they made their threes, they were contested. Rutgers might steal a game on the road this year because their defense is so good.
Yes, the refs were loose with their whistles: Michigan benefitted from a lot of ticky tack calls that put Mamadou Doucoure, Thiam and Sanders in early foul trouble. This also kept Rutgers from getting their momentum going on the offensive side. But that’s part of building from the bottom up. Consciously or not, referees aren’t blind. They know Michigan is ranked and Rutgers is digging its way out of the cellar. That affects you on the court. Rutgers has to withstand games called this way on the road.