Dominant Performace: This was the best Rutgers looked since they went on the road and trounced Iowa last season. Every defensive rotation was crisp. They allowed the Pirates few clean looks. They moved on offense, drove to the net and made open shots. They made their free throws. Do they have some things to clean up? A little. Seton Hall’s press flummoxed the Scarlet Knights when Geo Baker wasn’t in the game. But otherwise, this is a wow moment. Seton Hall was not prepared for this level of play for Rutgers and Rutgers didn’t care. They just ran away with the game, opening with a 12-0 run.
Home Court Advantage: Back in the early aughts of the century, coach Gary Waters turned the RAC into a house of horrors for teams. His Rutgers squads would go 16-1, 14-2 over the course of a season at the RAC. A lot of that had to do with the crowds and the way the team got up to play in front of that noise. This Rutgers group is starting to look the same way. They are currently 8-0 at home and they are starting to look really good doing it. The crowd revs them up and they run, run, run for easy baskets. And man, this team just defends the heck out of the game at home. Something to keep in mind as the season goes on.
Geo Runs the Team: Baker didn’t score the most or rebound the most. But he ran the offense. He didn’t get tripped up by the press. He had five assists. He hit two huge threes early in the game to give space and really helped set the tone. That’s what Geo does. He can have a night where goes off for 22 and dominates with scoring, or he can be the guy that distributes. He is the team’s leader and the most important player on the team.
The Monster in the Middle: Rutgers dominated at the boards tonight (I’m using that word a lot tonight—dominated). They pulled down 46 to Seton Hall’s 29. 14 of those went to Myles Johnson. He was not the tallest player on the floor. Seton Hall was much taller, but Johnson is starting to understand positioning and using his long arms to get the ball. He has better hands than many other big man and it shows. And when he stays out of foul trouble, he really can’t be stopped.
Ron Harper, Jr.: Thought number 5 and I’m just now getting to Ron. He was the MVP of this game as voted by the press. He just flat out made shots. 18 points, 6 rebounds and 2 assists. He helped shut down some of the other players on Seton Hall not named Myles Powell. This is the Harper we’ve been waiting for. Just like at Iowa, maybe he shows up on the big stage.
Myles Powell: Powell did not play in the second half because of a concussion and the report from head coach Kevin Willard sounded scary. After banging his head a couple of times, Powell reportedly asked why they were practicing at Rutgers. Powell is one of the most fun players to watch in college hoops. Hopefully, he makes a speedy recovery and is back on the court soon for the rest of his senior season.
Greg Schiano’s Speech: So the new/old head coach of Rutgers football came out to re-introduce himself to the crowd. He gave a rah rah speech that blew the roof off the place. He promised to bring Rutgers to number 1 in the country one day. It was pretty cool. Except... if I were his editor, which I’m not, I would have maybe suggested he acknowledge the fact that he was at a basketball game and maybe ended his speech with “Now let’s go beat Seton Hall” or something like that. A minor nit, but I decided to pick it. Honestly, I didn’t notice it at first, but several people around in me in the crowd and in my Twitter feed did. However, things are looking up on the gridiron so far.
The Next Game: In a week’s time, Rutgers will regroup at the RAC to take on Lafayette. And then they have Caldwell during Christmas week before the Big Ten schedule starts up again. They cannot struggle in either of these games. The last three years of the Steve Pikiell era have included big wins followed by big letdowns. This is not a season for that. Rutgers needs to come out and take care of business on Sunday with a convincing win before they go off to celebrate the holidays. No excuses anymore.