Rutgers lost this one, missing a golden opportunity to move on to the second round for the third consecutive season. Instead, it was a 68-61 stinker.
Turnover, turnovers, turnovers: Rutgers just couldn’t hang on to the ball. They turned the ball over every way possible. Off inbounds, while trying to feed the post, on offensive fouls and even when no one was really near them. That was the reason the game turned. Rutgers had one of their statistically best shooting games of the year, but could not get any distance between themselves and Nebraska. Maybe they were nervous. Maybe they were distracted. Maybe they were tired? I don’t know. But you have to take care of the ball. Twenty-two turnovers shouldn’t happen.
Geo Baker Was Worn Out: You started to see it against Indiana, but it was extremely evident tonight. He had no legs. A season full of minutes at a position he was learning when he was the focus of every single team’s defense will wear you down. Rutgers had depth, but too much youth for Pikiell to ease the minutes off Baker early. Geo is one of the leaders of this team and there’s no doubt he will continue to progress, especially off the ball with more guard depth next year. But his 9 point game wasn’t enough for Rutgers to keep building on the lead they had. It allowed Nebraska to come back. You could see how worn out Geo was when Palmer got that dunk off the turnover.
The Refs: It wouldn’t be a 4 Thoughts if I didn’t mention the refs. This game was not called evenly. Maybe it was the way Nebraska played defense, but it seemed like Nebraska was allowed to play physical while there were a lot of touch fouls called on Rutgers. If it was the refs, so be it, but that should have been the Scarlet Knights strategy. Pound the post and get to the line. But it never truly worked. Eugene Omoruyi got to the line, but Myles Johnson should have been there too. Both of those guys had great games, but never seemed to get the calls. In the postgame on the radio, Jerry Recco ended a break with the quote, “Thirty three free throws to eleven is absurd.”
Now the Off Season: This season was the most fun season for Rutgers in a long, long time. Yeah, it didn’t end the way we wanted it to, but it was a definite step up from Pikiell years one and two. Now they have to build on the progress. They have two open scholarships at the moment. They need size and they need more scoring. There is opportunity here and it will be fascinating to watch. Unfortunately, this is the sad time for me. I love winter and I love Rutgers basketball and it is a long, long 8 months until November. But when November comes, there will be a new roster, and a new optimism.
Thanks for reading everyone. Don’t be too down on this team. Think of the good times. There is a bright future ahead. The team just got too worn down late. That’s youth. They will mature and get better.