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Embracing Expectations: 4 Thoughts on UMass

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: NOV 20 Stephen F Austin at Rutgers Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Rutgers dominated UMass today, 82-57. Four thoughts:

Defense Came to Play: Rutgers truly shut down UMass. The Minutemen had no answer for Rutgers athleticism and ability to trap. Jacob Young really showed up today and disrupted the UMass offense. Geo Baker had another huge block early in the game, and Myles Johnson is becoming a rim protector. And that defense allowed the Scarlet Knights to get out and run and really show a solid offense.

Geo Baker, Second Half Superstar: Baker is truly becoming a winning player. He scored 17 points, with most of those (including 2 threes) coming in the second half to help the Rutgers pull away. Baker is also starting to show some great court vision, getting to the rim more than I’ve seen him do in any other season. Rutgers will live and die by Geo, and Steve Pikiell is doing an excellent job keeping him fresh. Baker was the best player against UMass’s press and he’s been doing it all all season. He is the face of Rutgers basketball right now.

Free Throws, but for a good reason: The Scarlet Knights did what they had to do at the line today. They shot almost 71% from the line. Ron Harper Jr was a standout going 5-7. It probably would have been 7-7 if some dude didn’t shout out “GREG SCHIANO” right when Ron was in his shooting motion twice. Maybe next time yell that out when Rutgers players aren’t shooting key free throws? Geo Baker also went 3-3 from the line.

The Gauntlet Begins: The last two games have really been complete games for Rutgers, so it appears they are coming together at the right time. Now they have one of the toughest stretches of the season, starting on Tuesday against Pittsburgh. Then it’s Michigan State, Wisconsin and finally Seton Hall. We will know a lot more about Rutgers in the next two weeks. Will be fascinating to watch.