Rutgers fell to Michigan State 71-60. Four Thoughts:
Rutgers Came Out and Played Hard: The first half was a work of art for the Scarlet Knights. They moved the ball well, the shots were falling and they had Michigan State looking out of sorts. This was the kind of effort you wanted to see out of Rutgers after the heartbreak of the Iowa game. Geo Baker was so calm and, while he settled for jumpers, he was really getting his shot to fall. Rutgers went on a couple of crazy runs, and you really started to believe there might be some road magic.
Michigan State Adjusted and Took Over: All right, the second half was what Michigan State does. After Rutgers scored two quick baskets to extend their lead to a game high 11, the Spartans—led by Cassius Winston—went on an insane run of their own and just dominated the rest of the game. They took away Rutgers’ strength in rebounding, Winston made a couple of bonkers off-balance shots and away they went. Once Geo Baker went cold, you know it was over.
The Refs Were Refs Again: Listen, on the road, I get it. But there were a couple of crazy calls that just can’t happen whether you are on the road or at home. As Rutgers is going on its first half run, a ball goes out of bounds off the Spartans and is called off Ron Harper. Three Rutgers players dive for the ball, corral it and call timeout, but the TO isn’t rewarded. Instead it’s a shot clock violation. Baker is clearly forced out by Matt McQuaid and it is called no foul. Rutgers is a vastly improved team, but they’re not at the point where they can win games when it is 5 on 8. Steve Pikiell is working the refs really hard, but the refs aren’t giving in.
Michigan State Outworked Rutgers: This doesn’t usually happen against a Steve Pikiell coached team, but Tom Izzo’s squad really took it to Rutgers in the second half. On the possession that tied the game, Michigan State got 4 rebounds before hitting the game equalizing three. What worked for Rutgers early on wasn’t working and the Spartans really tightened their defense. The Spartans flat out shut Baker down and when you cut him off, the offense stops clicking. Nothing clicked and Rutgers started forcing bad shots and passes. I don’t think this was Iowa hangover, but the Spartans are the better team. It never felt like Rutgers’ effort sagged, just that Michigan State took it up another notch. Rutgers hasn’t beaten a ranked team on the road in 11 years, and MSU didn’t let it happen today.