No. 15 Rutgers has had their problems with No. 23 Michigan State in the past. The Spartans have always been a tough matchup, defeating the Scarlet Knights all 10 times they have met.
On Tuesday night, Michigan State took the term ‘domination’ to another level. Rutgers was physically dominated and outperformed in all facets of the game during a 68-45 loss in East Lansing.
Rutgers came into this game looking to make a statement in the Big Ten. The Spartans came into this game having lost three of their four conference games. Rutgers had a chance to show that they are a legitimate contender in the conference. Instead, it was the Scarlet Knights who suffered their third loss in four games.
This was a game that likely gave Rutgers’ fans flashbacks of the early days of Steve Pikiell. They were outrebounded 46-25, which was a product of many things. Cliff Omoruyi was out once again and the Spartans took advantage downlow. They beat up the Scarlet Knights all night on both ends. Offensively, the entire team had trouble putting the ball in the basket from all three levels.
Rutgers shot 30.5% from the floor overall and 25% from three-point range. The woes continued at the free throw line for the team finishing 6-17 on the night.
Heading into halftime, Rutgers was lucky to be where they were. They trailed 28-22 after what looked like their worst half of the season. The Scarlet Knights were able to force 14 turnovers but could only get 12 points off them. All things considered, a six-point deficit seemed like a miracle. The second half saw the game get ugly very quick.
Rutgers could not get things going on either end. They scored just 23 points over the final 20 minutes of the game. Defensively, they struggled to stop Aaron Henry, who led the Spartans with 20 points on 8-13 from the floor. Michigan State held Rutgers to just five points over the final 10 minutes.
Michigan State has had success defending Rutgers in recent years but Tom Izzo really stepped up his game this year. Ron Harper Jr. led the Scarlet Knights with 13 points on 5-12 from the field. Jacob Young was the only other Scarlet Knight in double-figures with 11 points but struggled from the field going 5-18. Myles Johnson logged just two points and went 0-7 from the free throw line.
Rutgers will be back in action on Saturday at Noon ET when they will host Ohio State. They will look to get their revenge from their 80-68 loss in Columbus earlier in the season. This will be an interesting game to watch given the drama that ensued following their first meeting regarding the officiating.
Their matchup against the Buckeyes on Saturday will be the most important game of the season for Rutgers. Losers of three of their last four in an extremely difficult Big Ten, the Scarlet Knights need to get in the win column before this begins to snowball.