Rutgers settling in for a long winter’s nap. Unfortunately, it was in the first half of the game. Columbia dominated the first half and went up 15 points and Rutgers cut the lead to ten at half. Then the defense kicked in.
The Typical Rutgers Holiday Experience Was in Full Effect: As they have for almost as long as I’ve been following the team, Rutgers came out sleepy in the first half and put themselves in jeopardy for their 5th loss in a row. They rushed shots, got in foul trouble and played really bad defense. Columbia hit a few threes, but more impressively, they got the lane a ton. The Scarlet Knights couldn’t find Jake Killingsworth (Killingsworths are always getting Rutgers in trouble) and he hit 4 threes for 12 first half points.
Caleb McConnell and Shaq Carter stepped up: In the second half, Columbia pushed the 2nd half lead back to 14, Rutgers finally seemed to wake up. Shaq Carter started to get easy baskets once Rutgers found him in open spots under the basket. He finished with 13 key points. Meanwhile, Pikiell subbed in McConnell to play with Geo Baker—instead of relieving him. McConnell’s length bothered Killingsworth, and he also managed 8 points, including 4 key and clutch free throws down the stretch.
Geo Baker and Eugene Omoruyi Are Forcing it: Omoruyi may have had 18 points to lead the team, but it was a up and down game. He was in foul trouble for most of it—finally fouling out late. He forced shots, he turned the ball over and he looked out of sorts lot. At the same time, he hit a key three (one of two for Rutgers total) to bring Rutgers to within one in the 2nd half. Geo didn’t fare much better. Columbia keyed on him, and Baker had trouble getting open for shots. Pikiell clearly wants the ball in Geo’s hands late in the game, but at the end of regulation, he let the clock count too far down before forcing a fade away.
Lots to Fix For Rutgers: Bad shooting (2-19 from 3), too many turnovers, fouls, and looking confused out there—not all of that can be blamed on youth. Pikiell and company have a ton of work to do with only one more game before conference season. They survived this game, but it was touch and go for most of it. Jim Engles is a really good coach, but he was without his best player. The Scarlet Knights really have to wake up—we’ve seen them when they’re good: at Miami, Michigan State, at Wisconsin and part of at Seton Hall... but they have to be consistent. Efforts like this will get them destroyed in the Big Ten Conference.