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Embracing Expectations: 4 Thoughts on a 75-67 loss to Penn State

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NCAA Basketball: Rutgers at Penn State Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

Ugh. Aaron and Greg will have more to say later. I’ll just say ugh.

Four Thoughts:

Time to Panic: Rutgers did everything wrong in this game. Every. Single. Thing. They didn’t rebound. They didn’t defend. They did not look like Rutgers. They didn’t pass well. They didn’t make shots. They didn’t get out and run. They didn’t hustle. They didn’t look like they wanted to be on the court. The Scarlet Knights are looking at a massive, massive collapse. The likes of what is going on here I don’t think I’ve ever seen. The expectations were so high... and everything just came crashing down. They put it together late, but it was... too late.

Rutgers Runs An Offense...But Gives Up on It: The first three plays of the game, Rutgers ran a textbook offense. Two wide open shots off beautiful passes and a lay-up off a steal. And then Rutgers missed all three. And in there they missed two free throws. After that, the entire team gave up on running anything resembling an offense. Players tried to do too much. They tried forcing everything—going one on one, repeatedly. All the criticisms you’ve seen on Twitter or the message boards? That’s what happened in this one. And Rutgers didn’t fight to get back in it.

Pikiell Has Had Enough: At the first TV timeout of the second half, Pikiell reached his breaking point. He sent in an entire line change—in came Oskar Palmquist, Mawot Mag, Caleb McConnell, Paul Mulcahy and Cliff Omoruyi. It was clear Pikiell was trying to send a message and trying to get the players going. It didn’t work much at the time, but there was a sign of some hustle and they played a little zone. But, Rutgers didn’t lose ground and finally, Pikiell brought Geo Baker and Ron Harper Jr. back in.

A Spark? I hate to be even slightly optimistic, because... you know, it’s time to panic. But when Pikiell started to insert Harper, Baker and Montez Mathis again, something clicked. Paul Mulcahy played his heart out and Baker and Harper found some rhythm. Harper ended up with 18 points and Geo Baker scored 9, all in the second half. But here’s the thing, time is running out. Penn State was winless in the Big Ten and they played desperate basketball. Rutgers, who is now on a 5 game losing streak and 6 out of 7, should have match the desperation. They didn’t. Maybe the last ten minutes are a spark going forward, but we need to see more of it. Because right now, things are going from historic to typical in Rutgers fashion.