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Unfinished Business: 4 Thoughts on Clemson

NCAA Basketball: Clemson at Rutgers Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Rutgers got off the mat last night, taking down Clemson with a 74-64 victory in a late night tilts. Four Thoughts:

Like a Person About to Get Married: Rutgers was engaged last night. From the tip, you could see they were fired up, determined to execute the game plan and ready to give the RAC crowd a show. The Scarlet Knight’s defense was a clinic and they clearly took the criticisms for their perimeter defense to heart. The Scarlet Knights held Clemson to 4 of 18 shooting, and other than a quick stretch where the Tigers hit three threes in a couple minute period, they never got a truly good look. Rutgers even mixed in a zone for a few possessions each half to give Clemson a taste of what has ailed Rutgers all season.

Ron Fire: Ron Harper Jr has taken criticism all season, despite averaging 16 pts and 9 rebounds per game and, according to Steve Pikiell, dealing with a bad back. It didn’t look like the back was bothering him last night. Harper poured in 23 points and pulled down 9 rebounds. He was 4-6 from three and even doled out 3 assists. It was a great night for the senior, who’s sidekick was Caleb McConnell, who along with playing great D, scored 16 points and had 6 rebounds of his own while sharing the ball handling duties with Paul Mulcahy. With Geo Baker still sidelined, Harper is going to have to take on the mantle of leading scoring and someone will have to step up with him. Last night, it was McConnell. I hope that in his next film session, Pete Winter* takes a look at McConnell’s shot selection this week, as I think it can tell us a lot about how he’s playing.,

Miller Time: Steve Pikiell must check the message boards and social media, as fans were begging him to bring Jalen Miller, the freshman guard off the bench. Miller has been touted for playing tough, fast defense and Rutgers needed him in this game. Miller played well on defense and even played a little offense defense substitution with Jaden Jones at the end of the game. Miller was key in slowing down Clemson’s smaller guards like Nick Honor, Al-Amir Dawes and David Collins (who was a pain all night with 18 points) during his seven minutes of play. It was good to see Miller hit the hardwood, and even score 2 of his own.

Ball Goes Round and Round: I did not see the UMass game (thankfully, I guess), but word was the ball movement really picked up for the first half with a noticeably more active offense. That continued tonight. Paul Mulcahy was key, as he tallied 7 of Rutgers 14 assists vs only 7 turnovers. You can see the formula for this Scarlet Knights team to win. Move the ball, and get it inside. Make some timely threes (Rutgers made 7 of 19) and rebound the ball. When Rutgers is active and moving the game is easier. They outrebounded Clemson 40-39, which clearly isn’t domination, but it is a sign both teams were active on the glass. It’s a good start for Rutgers to get back on track, with Illinois on tap for a Friday night road trip.