Boy, it’s been a long stretch hasn’t it? Rutgers hasn’t been on a basketball court since December 12th, and hasn’t played at the RAC since that win over #1 Purdue. But, now, their COVID pause over with, Rutgers showed up and took care of business against a 3-7 Maine team.
So with that caveat, four thoughts:
Rutgers Clicked Early: With the way, the Scarlet Knights have played against some bad teams this season, along with the fact that they’ve been off for nearly 3 weeks, I expected some ugly, out of sync basketball. The first half was anything but that. The Scarlet Knights scored 42 points in the half and never truly let up. Over the course of the entire game, they made 10 threes (50%) and shot nearly 70% as a whole. It looked like a team that missed playing basketball, not a team that had to learn how to play together all over again.
The Starters Were Unstoppable: Geo Baker had 9 points, making 3 threes all in the first half and moving into fifth place all time on the Rutgers list. Paul Mulcahy couldn’t miss, going 4-4 from deep and scoring a total of 14 points. Caleb McConnell scored 13 and played solid defense—he’s a hustler. Cliff Omoruyi had a bunch of poster dunks—14 points and 8 rebounds. Ron Harper was in beast mode: 19 points, 7 boards, and 3 assists. The team had 21 assists vs. 10 turnovers. The starters did what they had to do against a bad team.
They Needed to Play This Game: Saturday too. Laugh all you want at Pikiell’s scheduling, but having some cupcakes on the docket turned out to be important, considering the timing of Rutgers’ COVID pause. You didn’t want your first game back to be up against Michigan—a team that can take you out of what you want to do. Rutgers needs to shake the rust off vs. Maine and Saturday against CCSU. Rutgers is at 6-5 (1-1) now. Get to 7-5 and then turn the focus on conference play.
First Off the Bench: Ralph Gonzales-Agee missed the game for personal reasons, but it was interesting to see who Steve Pikiell subbed in first. Sparkplug and Swiss Army Knife Mawot Mag came in, which isn’t much of a surprise, but Oskar Palmquist was next. Palmquist looked like he was finding his footing against Purdue, making a couple of threes, but then he missed the Seton Hall game. Today he came in and swished another three. Maybe he’s starting to develop and become comfortable enough to be a weapon for Pikiell. If that happens, plus Jalen Miller and Jaden Jones keep developing—there’s some depth on this squad.