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Embracing Expectations: 4 Thoughts on a 68-45 Loss to Michigan State

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NCAA Basketball: Rutgers at Michigan State Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Rutgers dropped a game to Michigan State tonight, and though the Scarlet Knights were able to close the gap to about 4 a couple of times, it never felt particularly close. And it certainly didn’t end close with a 68-45 loss. And now we get to worry about Geo Baker’s ankle again as well. Lots to think about tonight.

Four Thoughts:

Rutgers Didn’t Play Well: This is one of those thoughts that is incredibly simple, but needs to be said. In the Big Ten, on the road, you have to bring your A game every night and the Scarlet Knights did not. They looked like they were missing some pep in their step. They seemed out of sync all night. They had trouble pulling in rebounds, a Steve Pikiell special. The free throws were awful, as usual—it’s not even worth making an extra thought about. Could it be an emotional letdown after a brutally close loss to Iowa? Maybe, but as Steve Pikiell says, you have to have short memories in this league.

Michigan State Played Excellent Defense: Make no mistake, part of the reason why Rutgers did not play well was because of Michigan State. Tom Izzo is a Hall of Fame coach and he scouts Rutgers well. They took a way exactly what Rutgers wanted to do by not double teaming and switching on high screens. Rutgers never adjusted well to what the Spartans were doing and therefore weren’t able to get back into it. They may have also caught the Spartans at the wrong time—Michigan State often starts slow and then kicks it into gear. After winning against Nebraska over the weekend, they might be starting to hit their stride again.

Lay Ups: Rutgers hasn’t been making their lay-ups lately. I don’t know why, but it’s starting to take its toll on the Scarlet Knights. You can see it with their body language. Easy shots around the rim aren’t going down. I don’t know what it is about it, but the Scarlet Knights need to find a bit of a softer touch. If they don’t, games where the three point shot doesn’t fall are going to be trouble.

This Isn’t Panic Time, But It Isn’t Good: Rutgers now sits at 3-3 in the Big Ten and have lost 3 out of 4. They haven’t been healthy all season—and though they are getting their players back—they won’t be whole until Cliff Omoruyi comes back. Even worse, Geo Baker appeared to tweak his ankle again at the end of this game. Just a terrible night all around. This is the hardest part of the conference schedule, but for a team that has pounded their chest a little bit, they need to win games like these. Everyone wins a blowout and everyone gets blown out in college basketball, it’s a long, long season. But, starting Saturday, I think the Scarlet Knights need to get a win. Losing to Iowa by 2 is not bad, and I think there was some hangover from that going into this game. But in a season where the Scarlet Knights have prided themselves on making history, a win here would have been huge. Saturday is a revenge game against Ohio State. Can they get it?