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Enjoying the Build: 4 Thoughts on Northwestern

Rutgers loses a chance to move into sole possession of 11th place.

NCAA Basketball: Northwestern at Rutgers Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

This one stings. Rutgers loses a tough one to Northwestern 65-57.

This Team Misses Eugene Omoruyi: Forget Omoruyi’s contributions on offense. Rutgers misses his leadership and his defense. In the first half, it felt like the Wildcats, particularly the big man Derek Pardon, couldn’t miss. Omoruyi would have done a solid job positionally forcing him to set up away from the basket or luring him into charges. Omoruyi is also the leader of this team as a junior and when Rutgers gets down, there’s no one to truly pick them up.

Yes, Free Throws: As Rutgers was mounting a frantic comeback, they got burned at the foul line. Most shocking was Geo Baker, who should be knocking down the front ends of one and ones. Baker is clearly frustrated right now and Rutgers needs to find a way to get him going. Getting to the line and knocking down free throws is a way to do it. When Rutgers missed the free throw to take the lead, everyone’s heart sank.

Development Isn’t Linear: Montez Mathis has really taken his game to another level since Big Ten play restarted, but Ron Harper seems to have slowed his development. That’s going to happen. Everyone remembers Geo Baker’s flu diagnosis and freshmen wall last year. These players gotta keep getting to the rim and keep shooting. That’s what’s very frustrating, the players are developing, but they aren’t taking over the game yet. It might not happen this year. But they have to keep working. At some point, it is going to click for everyone. But who knows when.

Games Like This Hurt: They are so tantalizingly close. That second half run to get back in the game was electrifying. But they couldn’t get over the hump and the mental mistakes of inexperience kept rearing their ugly head. It would be nice for the rebuild to accelerate, but we have to endure this. The pieces are there but they aren’t consistent. Defense in the second half was great. Geo was off, but Mathis was on. Not everything has clicked yet.