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Embracing Expectations: 4 Thoughts on Iowa

NCAA Basketball: Rutgers at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Rutgers dropped a heartbreaker to Iowa in and 85-80 match.

What a Battle: Okay, deep breath everyone. That wasn’t the outcome Rutgers wanted, but that was a ton of fun. Rutgers didn’t come in flying high on their first ranking in 41 years. They wore it as a chip on their shoulder and played all out. There were several times (look at my Twitter feed) where I felt the game was over but Rutgers would get back in it. There was a stretch in the second half where Rutgers made its late run where they held Iowa scoreless. This is a very good team and can still prove it over the next few weeks. It was clear Rutgers wanted to stay ranked. Would love to see these two teams meet again in the Big Ten Tournament at some point because it was clear there was no love lose between the two. That missed shot to tie the game by Jacob Young is going to burn Young for a while, but he needs to come back and have a big game against Nebraska. There is still a season left. Tough loss. Need to bounce back on Saturday afternoon in front of another sold out crowd. How can you not love this team?

Big Ten Refs: All right, let’s get it out of the way early. The game was called two different ways in each half. In the first half, neither team was even able to get to the one and one. In fact, Iowa tried to foul three times in the last possession because they had a few to give and couldn’t. It led to a Fran McCaffery technical foul. It was playing right into Rutgers hands. In the second half, the game was called in a way that fit more into the Hawkeye style. The physicality was limited and every touch seemed to lead to a foul. That’s the way it is on the road sometimes in the Big Ten. Rutgers, however, was able to take advantage as well, late in the second half as free throws were able to keep them in it.

Luka Garza is a load: I had seen his numbers, but I hadn’t really watched many Iowa games this season. He is a beast. Rutgers was able to force him into bad spots down off the block and his still seemed to get lay-ups. He finished the game with 28 points, including multiple threes. He was a rebounding and blocking machine. Rutgers had no answer for him and couldn’t really double down on him since that would leave Iowa’s three point shooters open. Tough when your match-up is that good.

Ron Harper Jr and Akwasi Yeboah Were Top Notch: Ron Harper Jr. loves playing Iowa. He finished the game with 29 points, and really dominated for stretches. At the same time Akwasi Yeboah was able to hit shots, scoring 17. Rutgers hadn’t had a night where everything went in in a while. Tonight was that night and it wasn’t Geo Baker who made it happen. That is an important factor because the depth on this team is huge. A different player or two can step up each and every night. That will be key over the next six weeks as Rutgers continues to try and build its resume.