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Embracing Expectations: 4 Thoughts on Rutgers 77-75 Loss to Iowa

NCAA Basketball: Iowa at Rutgers Catalina Fragoso-USA TODAY Sports

Rutgers and Iowa went toe to toe in a knockdown drag ‘em out battle. The game was back and forth, with Rutgers having a 7 point lead in the second half, only to allow the Hawkeyes to come storming back late. Here’s the full recap.

Four Thoughts.

Fun Game: Let’s star here. It really is heartbreaking to lose a game like that, but it was an epic battle. Both teams left it all on the floor. There were no look passes, deep threes, crazy drives to the basket. That is the kind of game you want to see out of two top fifteen teams. I am exhausted right now, and not in a good way. Going to take a while to recover from this one, but at the RAC, Rutgers and Iowa play some epic games. I am distraught, but how distraught can you be when two top fifteen teams play a game and your team loses by 2? Rutgers belonged. The last offensive possession Rutgers had—not counting the desperation three by Jacob Young—should have ended up in a basket, but it strikes me that, as experienced as this team is, they have not been in a position where they needed an end of clock basket. They prefer to end games on defense. That meant the ball bounced around a bit and no one could get a true hold and led to a turnover. That said, there were a lot of hands in there and I’m surprised a foul wasn’t called. That leads us to the big key:

Free Throws: This is the reason Rutgers lost. You can’t go 4-12 from the line in a big game. Even if you go 8-12 you win. Free throws have been the weakness of this team that just hasn’t burned them yet. Well, today it did. Ron Harper Jr missed a bunch of key shots and the Scarlet Knights never got Geo Baker to the line. For all the great plays in this game, the ugly stat at the line is what caused this one to be a loss. Rutgers won’t fall out of the top 25, but they will slide a bit.

Defense, Defense, Defense: The Iowa Hawkeyes average somewhere around 90 points per game—I’m writing this emotionally, so I’m not going to go look up the exact number. (UPDATE they average 95 points per game). However, Rutgers held them to 77 points and did everything they could to slow down Luka Garza. Garza averages 27 points per game and the Scarlet Knights held him to under that at 25. Myles Johnson and Dean Reiber did epic work on Garza making him earn every point. Dean Reiber is quickly becoming a fan favorite, supplanting Mamadou Doucoure as the next man up with Cliff Omoruyi down.

Balanced Scoring: Rutgers barely got any bench points, with Paul Mulcahy putting in 6 points. But the starting five was quite balanced. Jacob Young led the team with 17 points, and everyone else in the starting five had 13. Myles Johnson again showed why he was one of the best big men in the league with a double double, he also had 10 rebounds. This team will get up again. Not to worry.

Michigan State is on Tuesday night.