The Scarlet Knights stayed close for 30 minutes, and then it all went to hell as Illinoins won 75-62.
Illinois is a Terrible Match-Up: There’s an old basketball saying that goes something like “Foul them on every play, the refs can’t call all of them.” Illinois plays a physical style like that. They clutch, they grab, they swipe, they hand check, doing everything they can to turn Rutgers over. They also pressure the lead guard and jump the passing lanes. Rutgers isn’t a good offensive team to begin with and this style can really stifle a team. However, Rutgers was able to hang in there until the last ten minutes when they went to a zone because of foul trouble. Rutgers only made one field goal after that.
The refereeing in this game was terrible: There wasn’t much consistency to the calls. Rutgers got called for a lot of hand checks while Illinois was able to get away with them. Rutgers was able to draw fouls going to the hoop, and Illinois didn’t. But there were so many fouls called (and Corey Sanders’ 5 missed free throws were brutal) that the game never really got into a flow. That played into Illinois gritty hands.
When You Don’t Make Threes: That’s a killer. Rutgers made only 3 three point shots in this game. Illinois made 9. When Rutgers was frantically trying to come back, you need some threes to go down. To break a zone, you need threes to go down. To open up the lane for Sanders to drive, you need threes to go down. Let me put this clearly: This is a talent issue and not a coaching issue. Other teams play defense, and Rutgers still gets lots of open shots. They just don’t make them. Peter Kiss, Ron Harper Jr and whoever else comes in next year with a shooting reputation has to change this.
I Don’t Know Who to Root For Tonight: If Iowa beats Northwestern, Rutgers finishes in last place in the Big Ten, but would face Minnesota. If Northwestern wins, Rutgers won’t finish in last place, but will give Illinois another chance to beat them. Illinois might be the worst match-up for Rutgers in the lowest half of the Big Ten. But not finishing last for the first time would be somehting to sell long term this summer.