Rutgers had a huge second half and pulled away from number 22 Illinois to win 73-57. Here are my on brand 4 thoughts.
Ron Harper, Jr. was the man tonight: This was vintage Ron. He scored 27 points, made his chippies and made his threes. You knew he was going to have a big night when he hit his first two threes and shot them in the flow of the offense. Illinois didn’t have an answer for him all night and tried to even throw a match-up problem at him by playing two bigs for long stretches with Giorge Bezhanishvilli at him. But Ron found ways to get open, most impressively against the Illinois 1-3-1 zone that Steve Pikiell said they’ve never seen them play on film. But Ron got open near the hoop and Geo Baker found him for two back breaking lay-ups.
The starting line-up change was brilliant: I think most fans expected Geo Baker to be put back in the starting line-up tonight after finding his offensive touch again the last two games. But the surprise plot twist was Myles Johnson being sat in favor of starting Shaq Carter. Johnson had been getting into early foul trouble, so subbing in Carter was a move to protrect Johnson (as far as I know... I haven’t seen the postgame press conference yet.). Geo was Geo, having a great game controlling the offense, playing solid D and hitting some key shots. Carter was fantastic as well, playing good defense and making his free throws.
The Refs: Rutgers won so I can say this. The referees were awful tonight. In a league where there is more home cooking than any other on the officials side, Rutgers did not get the benefit of the doubt. In fact, the Illini oushot Rutgers from the line getting more attempts than RU. Thankfully, it didn’t matter, because Rutgers defense was so good in the second half, that Illinois could get never get a true run and the Scarlet Knights smart offensive play helped them pull away.
The Fans: Man, this was vintage RAC tonight. The place was so loud, especially the bigger Rutgers made the lead in the second half. This was as loud as the place has been in 20 years. It’s time to say it... The RAC is back. The fans make this place a house of horrors for the opposition and after too many years of church mice, it’s back. The place blows the doors off any arena north of North Carolina. It is the best home court advantage in the country. Take a bow, Riot Squad. Two more games left... let’s make it murder on Michigan and Maryland.