Rutgers won , but that’s not the whole story. Fairleigh Dickinson came out and tried to punch the Scarlet Knights in the face. Rutgers withstood the onslaught, and went on a 21-2 run to take control in the first half. With Geo Baker and Caleb McConnell sidelined, Ron Harper Jr and Jacob Young took control of the offense when they were needed most. After struggling with turnovers, the Scarlet Knights turned up their trademark defense, forced Fairleigh into mistakes and made the game a rout in the second half. Aaron has your full recap after the Pikiell press conference here.
Jacob Young Acted His Age: The game changed because the Texas transfer got tired of losing. Young used his speed to impact the game. He forced the opposition into several turnovers and acted like a scoring point guard. He finished the game with 24 points and 7 assists. He did have five turnovers, but turnovers plagued the entire team in the first half. What was most impressive about Young is the new sense of maturity he is showing. He never forced the issue, instead making good basketball decisions each time the ball was in his hand. He knew when to pass and when to attack the rim. His quick thinking and smooth ball handling changed the first half.
Ron Harper Jr Played Like a Pro: Harper had himself a night. A career high 30 points. He was 5 for 9 from three point land. His turn around jumper was falling, and then he even to to the rim. This is something to watch with Ron. Last season, he struggled with consistency—sometimes being absolutely dominant on offense, and then disappearing the next game. So far this season (and yes, it’s only two games), he’s scored 18 and now 30. Let’s see what he can do on Sunday, because he’s looking at potential player of the week honors. If he has this kind of season, if he is this consistent, then the big leagues could start taking notice.
Rutgers Has Depth: At the very least, they have the kind of depth to withstand this kind of team. Hopefully, Geo Baker’s injury doesn’t keep him out much past Sunday’s game against Hofstra. He is the heart and soul of the team. And missing Caleb McConnell doesn’t make things easier. However, There is enough talent on this team that it doesn’t have to be a grind when your best player is out. The Scarlet Knights have players who can put the ball in the basket and take over when necessary. It’s enough to beat a team of Fairleigh Dickinson’s caliber pretty handily. but I’m not sure it can withstand the Big Ten. Health is going to be key.
Free Throws and Three Point Shots: In the first game, Rutgers went 5-15 from the free throw line and 1-8 from beyond the arc. They did their best to rectify that tonight. Rutgers finished 15 for 25 from the line and 7 for 19 from three point land. The Scarlet Knights still aren’t the best shooting team, but this is a big step forward from the first game and should give the Rutgers faithful a moment to breathe. Fairleigh Dickinson is a better team than Sacred Heart and tries to play some gutty defense. This is a step forward and what good teams do. Give Fairleigh credit, they never went away, but Rutgers put them away. Stats like these helped with that.