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Enjoying the Build: 4 Thoughts on Illinois

NCAA Basketball: Rutgers at Illinois Mike Granse-USA TODAY Sports

Rutgers drops a tough one in overtime, 99-94. Four Thoughts!

The Young Bucks: Caleb McConnell, Montez Mathis, and Ron Harper Jr. brought it today. McConnell scored 25 points. He got to the rim, he hit some threes and he made his free throws. Harper scored the game tying bucket to send the game into overtime. Mathis got up and down the court at lightning speed. This type of game really allowed the freshman trio to be comfortable on the court. This wasn’t a half court game at all, it was a game where they pushed the tempo and tried to score quickly. That’s good for the freshman because they didn’t have to think. They could just play.

There Wasn’t an Answer for the Big Man: In the second half, Giorgi Bezhanishvili just imposed his will. Rutgers’ defense couldn’t keep him away from the rim and he was able to finish with both hands. He got to the free throw line and made his free throws as well. The big man brought energy to Illinois, especially when Rutgers got the Fighting Illini’s other two best players in foul trouble.

Free Throws, Free Throws, Free Throws: The Scarlet Knights missed 8 free throws. had they made 4 more of them, they win the game in regulation. Heck, if they had made two more of them. The Scarlet Knights are getting better, but they have to put together a complete game on the road. To win on the road, you have to make your free throws, and they didn’t today. This is definitely a frustrating aspect of this team, as a few commenters have pointed out repeatedly.

Condolences to Steve Pikiell: It was mentioned on the Big Ten Network that Pikiell’s mother had passed away earlier and he was coaching with a heavy heart. Definitely sad news, and you could see the players wanted to win this game for him. It didn’t happen, but they certainly played their hearts out.

Next up is Northwestern—another road game. Rutgers needs to come out with the same fire and try to get another road win.