The Rutgers men’s basketball team completed a 4-0 trip to Spain with a come from behind, 104-87 victory over El Maresme All-Stars Wednesday night in Barcelona. Playing it’s toughest opponent of the trip, they faced its first dose of adversity and responded in a big way. (Note: I goofed, it was this opponent that was considered the toughest competition of the trip, not the last game. I’m still in offseason form apparently, I’ll run some 16 in 60’s later as punishment).
Rutgers scored 60 second half points and held El Maresme to 34% shooting from the floor after the break. Without watching the games it’s tough to have a full assessment of their performance, but here are some quick takeaways based on the box score.
- Trailing by 9 points at the half, Rutgers had to respond to adversity for the first time in the four games and did so in impressive fashion. They dominated third quarter action by a scoring margin of 38-19 and never looked back. That took focus and strong will and is the type of effort they need to produce on a consistent basis next season. They easily could have fallen flat after a week plus on the road enjoying the sights and cuisine of Spain. Instead, they rose up to the challenge and finished the trip on a high note.
- After a relatively quiet first three games, Geo Baker sent a reminder of how important he is to this team. When Rutgers was in trouble and trailing by as many as 12 points, Baker stepped up when he was needed most. He finished with a team high 23 points on 8 of 12 shooting, including 2 of 5 from three-point range, as well as 5 of 6 from the free throw line. He also had a team high 7 assists with just 2 turnovers along with 2 steals and 2 rebounds. It was the type of performance they needed from their unquestioned leader.
- Jacob Young had a great trip and finished strong with a line of 17 points on 7 of 11 shooting, including 3 of 6 from deep, as well as 6 assists to just 1 turnover, 4 rebounds and 1 steal. His +/- rating of 26 tied Shaq Carter for a team best in the victory.
- Speaking of Shaq, he had an outstanding trip as well. In the finale, he outshined Myles Johnson and led the frontcourt with 19 points on 9 of 14 shooting, as well as 14 boards (7 offensive), 3 assists and 1 steal. I don’t think anyone’s stock rose more on this Spain trip than Carter’s who the staff have been high on all summer.
- Montez Mathis played better as the trip progressed and finished with 11 points on 5 of 7 shooting, grabbed 8 rebounds and swiped 2 steals. His toughness is a key factor for this team, as we already know the potential he has a defensive stopper.
- Akwasi Yeboah was steady, posting 10 points and 8 boards while posting a +/- rating of 24, which means he must have played well defensively.
- Rutgers shot 51.2% on 84 shot attempts from the field, which is a solid way to finish the four game trip. Unfortunately, they finished with the worst performance from behind the arc, making just 5 of 26 for 19.2%. What’s interesting is Rutgers also had its fewest fast break points in any game this trip with just 19. That means they were very efficient from two-point range in their halfcourt offense, which is an area they must improve on next season.
- They continue to be an under average team from the charity stripe, making 13 of 22 for 59%. Carter and Johnson have struggled the most from the line and were a combined 2 of 5 in this game. More on this later.
- For the third straight game, Rutgers shared the basketball well, as they dished out 25 assists as a team on 43 made field goals. From pictures, it looked like Maresme might have played some zone, so passing well was certainly a key in breaking it down. The high assist to made field goal rate in the Spain games is as positive a development as any that Rutgers produced on this four game trip.
The bottom line is that Rutgers accomplished a lot on the Spain trip. The competition was less than stellar, but that doesn’t outweigh the value of the extra practice time and games they played, as well as the team chemistry building and life experiences gained. With less than two months until practice begins for the 2019-2020 season, this team should be able to hit the ground running when the real grind begins. They’ll come home to open the brand new practice facility and have a better understanding of the areas they need to improve on before the season begins in November. I’ll have a recap of the entire four game Spain trip, including a stats review, coming out later this week.
Geo Baker Quotes
“It was a hard-fought game,” said Baker. “They were a really tough team that made tough shots. We handled some adversity and bounced back. I’m just happy we came away with the win.”
“I was just trying to be aggressive and help lead my team,” said Baker. “That’s one of my main jobs as a point guard. Tonight the shots were falling for me, but on another day they are going to be falling for someone else.”