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Embracing Expectations: 4 Thoughts on Wisconsin Round 2

NCAA Basketball: Rutgers at Wisconsin Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

Rutgers drops another road game 79-71.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights’ Defense Never Showed Up: In an uncharacteristic move, Rutgers defense did not travel today. The Scarlet Knights continually let the Wisconsin Badgers get in the lane, which opened up all types of open shots for them. The Scarlet Knights allowed 50% three point shooting from their opponent, and 48% overall. It makes it hard to come back, even when you shoot a respectable 50% from the floor (but only 28% from three). It’s really, because they did force the Badgers into some long stretches of scorelessness, but were never able to shut them down completely. When the Badgers could score, they did it in big bunches.

You have to win by 10 to win by 3 on the road: It’s an old cliche, but it’s true. You have to truly outplay your opponent to get a road win. Rutgers plays well for stretches, but it’s the same old story. Let a team build a lead, then buckle down to make a comeback and be exciting, but not enough to get over the hump. You have to beat the other team, beat the refs and beat the fans. Rutgers has two more road game opportunities left at Penn State and at Purdue. They have to play complete games to get them. It would be nice to jump out to a big lead and then fend off the opponent down the stretch. But until it happens, I’m not going to believe it.

Geo Baker Hits a Milestone: Steve Pikiell’s face of the program, Geo Baker scored 16 points and got over the 1000 career points milestone. It’s a great achievement for him, and shows how important he’s been to the program, considering he still has another season to go. In fact, Rutgers finally got the kind of offensive game it needed today with Baker’s 16, Ron Harper Jr.’s 21 and Montez Mathis dropping in 12. When a team like this scores over 70, with the kind of defense it usually plays, that should be a recipe for a win. But again, the defense didn’t get on the plane. Rutgers still hasn’t put together a complete game on the road. I can’t keep typing that sentence.

It’s Not Over, but it’s getting late: It looks to me like the Scarlet Knights might be starting to feel the pressure of getting off the tournament slide. A resume that looked so appealing a couple of weeks ago with only a road win to get, is now starting to get dicey. There are three games left and the Big Ten Tournament—so the Scarlet Knights still have their chances... but you don’t want it to come down to a tournament where anything can happen. The best thing Rutgers could do is just beat Penn State on Wednesday and come into the final home game with Maryland with a full head of steam. Rutgers can’t go O-for the stretch here. They have to find a win or two. Feeling the nerves, Rutgers fans? Because I sure am.