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Embracing Expectations: 4 Thoughts On Northwestern

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NCAA Basketball: Northwestern at Rutgers Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Rutgers survived another thriller with a basement team. It took overtime, but Rutgers won 77-73 in a thriller.

Four Thoughts:

Disaster Averted: Make no mistake, losing this game would have been an absolute disaster. Northwestern came out red hot and stayed that way for most of the game. They took an eighteen point lead in the first half, and for most of the game, it felt like anytime Rutgers made a little push, the Wildcats would hit another backbreaking three. But with about 6:30 minutes left, Rutgers was finally able to clamp down and hold Northwestern to only one field goal. The shots that Rutgers had missed for most of the game finally started to sink and the frantic comeback was on. This was the last chance for Rutgers to have a bad loss on their ledger, but they got off the mat and came back to win. The resume still stands.

Geo Baker is Back, Baby: 25 points. 6 rebounds. 5 assists. The face of the program had been struggling since coming back from a broken thumb, but I guess that’s not a problem anymore. Baker took the team on his back and basically said the Scarlet Knights weren’t losing today. He stuffed the statsheet, took the big shots all game and most importantly didn’t have a single turnover. Baker was a superstar tonight. When nothing was going right for Rutgers, Baker decided enough was enough. He even shut down Boo Buie who lit up the scoreboard for 19 points, hitting some ridiculous heat check threes. Baker was just was Steve Pikiell ordered tonight. The face of the Scarlet Knights.

Free Throws were huge: Though at times it seemed the refs weren’t blowing a home whistle, Rutgers got to the line a ton and made the Wildcats pay. Akwasi Yeboah continues to play like an old soul, going 8-8. Rutgers went 21-34 while Northwestern only went 6-12. It wasn’t pretty from the line, but Rutgers got it done. There are ways for bad shooting teams to get extra points and the free throw line is a way to do that.

Northwestern is going to be good: They have a lot of young talent and they remind me of early Steve Pikiell teams. They battle, they make you work and they are a pain in the neck to kill. They played really, really well today and gave the Scarlet Knights all they can handle. Put a little experience on this team, and they are going to be a really tough out. They are well coached. And their zone really flummoxed Rutgers. However, they are young and the really loud RAC really rattled them late. When the comeback was on, the team must have been thinking “here we go again.” Watch out for them in the years to come.