Pittsburgh beat Rutgers 71-60 tonight. 4 Thoughts.
The Awful Foul Call Changed the Game: You can say whatever you want about not blaming the refs, but the call when McConnell got elbowed in the head while arm-barred by the screener and still got called for the foul changed everything. Rutgers came out with their hair on fire, and played really tough, strong basketball. The defense was working hard and the offense was running well. Then, McConnell ended up with his second foul and things fell apart. Want proof? To start the second half, McConnell came back in and Rutgers went on a 10-0 run to take the lead...and then got called for his 3rd foul and Rutgers fell apart again. Foul trouble is a part of the game, but when it happens because of an egregiously bad call, it burns.
Pittsburgh’s Guards Were Good: Pitt is kind of a mirror image of Rutgers. Lots of guards, lots of depth, but hasn’t shot the ball well all season. Of course, until tonight. They made more key threes than Rutgers and were able to keep the Scarlet Knights at arms length. Rutgers battled, but never could get back in it because of Pitts guards. Rutgers needs a dead eye shooter to match up with teams like this. They will still have some hot shooting nights throughout the season... but tonight showed a talent gap.
The Defense Wasn’t There Tonight: Too often, Rutgers looked out of sync of defense. They were often a step slow closing on the guards and seemed to miss a lot of rotations. I’m not sure why that was. Maybe it was the step up in talent on Pitt vs. teams like UMass and NJIT, but the defense didn’t click well enough to slow down Pitt. And Rutgers offense, when it’s not out and running is not good enough to keep up when their D is off for the night.
0-2 in Tests: The two best teams Rutgers has faced this year they’ve faced on the road and they did not win either of them. And it doesn’t get any easier now. The gauntlet is not off to a great start and next up is the Michigan State Spartans. The goal is still to finish over .500 and get to a postseason tournament. Now Rutgers is going to have to win a couple of games they shouldn’t to make up for it.