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Embracing Expectations: 4 Thoughts on a 79-68 Loss to Ohio State

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NCAA Basketball: Ohio State at Rutgers Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

What a disaster. There’s no other way to put it. For a team that wants to have high expectations of itself, they are just in disarray. They had no answer for E.J. Liddell in the first half. Myles Johnson was in foul trouble and the Buckeyes just out-toughed the Scarlet Knights. After the ten minute mark of the first half, this game was never close.

Four thoughts:

Where is the defense? Last season, there were a ton of stretches where Rutgers would just shut teams down. Six, seven minutes without giving up a field goal. That defense has not been evident at all this season. I don’t know if it is the loss of Akwasi Yeboah or the lack of fans at the RAC, but something isn’t right and hasn’t been all season. The Scarlet Knights are not stopping teams. And even worse, when they get stops, they have given up a ton of offensive rebounds. Defense and rebounding are Pikiell’s wheelhouse and right now, it’s not there. It needs to be fixed. And if it isn’t there because of the lack of fans in buildings around the Big Ten? Then this team needs to find more internal motivation.

Forget about the refs: Lots of fans on Twitter were complaining about the foul disparity, but that’s on Rutgers. Rutgers, particularly in the first half, settled for jump shot after jump shot. They did not attack the basket and they did not draw contact. For a team that considers itself one of the toughest in Big Ten—they haven’t been. It’s hard for me to say because I love this team, and there’s a lot of time to put it back together. But they need to work on drawing fouls and that comes from attacking the rim. Look at what the Buckeyes did. They went at Myles Johnson from the start and they got the calls. Rutgers has to be smarter.

Cliff Omoruyi’s Injury Looms: Rutgers just looks so much different since he got hurt. The confidence that comes with knowing you are two deep at every spot, including a potential best tandum down the middle, isn’t there. Johnson has to be so careful because as much fun at Dean Reiber has potential to be—it isn’t there yet. Mamadou Doucoure hasn’t been the answer either. The problem is—this isn’t an injury that Omoruyi can come back from and play 5-10 minutes. He needs to be healed, because if his knee isn’t completely there yet, he could hurt it so much worse. The Scarlet Knight faithful have to be patient, but lordy, let’s hope he’s closer to practicing than not.

About a Week Off: I’m gonna go ahead and say Rutgers is not going to fill the hole in their schedule that comes from the Penn State postponement. This team needs to go back to the drawing board. They need to lick their wounds. For a team that wants these expectations, that wants to be looked at like a Big Ten champion or a Final Four contender, they need to go back and figure things out. The body language has to improve, the shot selection needs to improve. There was a moment with 10:36 left in the game that was telling to me. Oskar Palmquist went up for an offensive rebound and crashed to the floor. An over-the-back foul was called on a different Rutgers player and Palmquist just lay there. Paul Mulcahy suddenly starts yelling, “Help him up! Help him up!” from the other side of the floor. And an Ohio State player had to help Oskar up. Nothing is cohesive right now. Nothing is working. A blowout at Michigan State after a tight loss to Iowa you can overlook—but now things are worrisome. Rutgers next plays on Friday against Wisconsin. It’s a big game. They have a week or so to prepare. Time to regroup.