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Embracing Expectations: 4 Thoughts on Drexel

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

Rutgers beat Drexel 62-57, and here are my four thoughts because it’s late and I’m tired.

Geo Baker’s Dunk: Geo Baker was a winning player today, as he has been so far this season. He blocked shots, made smart plays and hit his free throws and three pointers. But the key came late in the game with about a minute left and Rutgers only up 4. Drexel, according to head coach Steve Pikiell, had been playing Geo’s right hand all night, so they set up a play for him to go left. The defensive seas parted and Geo got to the basket for a thundering dunk. That’s what leaders do in crunch time.

Ron Harper, Jr Won This Game Too: Like I said, it’s late and I’m too lazy to look up analytic stats, but I bet if you looked, Harper had the best plus/minus on the team. The game seemed to shift when he was on the court. He pulled down some really tough rebounds and in the first half keyed a rally to put Rutgers up ten for the first time this game. And if Ron wasn’t on the court at the end of the game, I’m not sure it would have ended well for Rutgers. He had his hands on every rebound and loose ball. Harper also led the team in scoring.

Free Throws Got Better: Rutgers shot 20 of 25 from the line, but they were 11 of 12 at one point. Caleb McConnell—who played fantastic defense late—missed the front end of a one-and-one. Akwasi Yeboah who played really tough and made key shots also missed a shot in a key moment. Rutgers can’t just settle on making free throws during the game, they have to make them down the stretch too.

A Few Warning Signs: Clearly, Rutgers fans don’t want to see close games against teams that are considered cupcakes. Rutgers gave up a lot of open looks from deep, Drexel took close to 30 threes, and that kept them in the game. And when the Dragons slowed the game down, Rutgers struggled to score. The defense needs to tighten up, big time. Bryant was able to torch Rutgers from deep late too. Some of it, I think, is still Steve Pikiell figuring this team out and getting what works out there. McConnell sat for a long stretch in the second half while I didn’t think he was playing that badly. Meanwhile, Jacob Young, who was great in the open court still tried to force shots in the halfcourt, by driving a bit out of control to the basket. These are fixable things, but will take some time. Just hope that some hot shooting but lesser talented team doesn’t knock Rutgers off before then. Fingers crossed.