Rutgers faced a 3 game in 6 days gauntlet and fared as well as a fan could hope for with this young team. They pulled off a game at Miami and then dropped two hard fought games to Michigan State and tonight against Wisconsin, 69-64.
Was is exhaustion or trying to do too much? Rutgers is going to go as far as Geo Baker and Eugene Omoruyi take them. However, when the team gets down in the second half of games, the two stars tend to force up shots. It will be interesting to see how this get corrected going forward. If it’s youth or hero ball, you might not see a change this season. However, if it’s exhaustion, you’ll see it change soon. Baker is the point guard, and he needs to be patient and calm. The Scarlet Knights need to run their offense, even when they’re losing. There aren’t any Corey Sanders on this team—someone who has the ability to go rogue and take the game over. Rutgers needs to grind and get open shots.
Shaq Carter was an offensive revelation: Carter has played sparingly during the first seven games of the season. Today, when Rutgers needed a spark, he got a long look. Carter was able to score around the basket with 9 points and pulled in 4 rebounds. If Carter plays good defense and continues to rebound, he’s going to find himself climbing the depth chart very quickly.
Rutgers Needed to Foul Ian Happ: The Scarlet Knights tried to make a valiant comeback late, pulling to within 5. But on their first defensive possession, instead of fouling Happ—a ridiculously poor foul shooter—they let him get to the basket easily for a lay-up. On the next possession, Rutgers did foul, but Omoruyi got called for one of those arm hooking flagrants. Happy missed both free throws, but Wisconsin got the ball back and punished Rutgers.
Wait Until February: You can see Steve Pikiell’s vision coming together. Rutgers stunned Miami and then blitzed both Michigan State and Wisconsin in the first halves before being worn down. The Scarlet Knights are still learning the game, and it is going to pay dividends. Look at the schedule going forward. For the next 4 weeks, Rutgers only has 4 games. That means Pikiell can spend a lot of time teaching and developing before the Big Ten schedule truly gets into full swing. If Pikiell can keep his team together and focused through the first portion of the conference schedule, this team should really start to pull together. There is a vision and good coaching going on here. There is a team that can upset people both at home and on the road. Now all it’s going to take is a learning period.