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Embracing Expectations: 4 Thoughts on a 64-50 Win Over Northwestern

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NCAA Basketball: Northwestern at Rutgers Catalina Fragoso-USA TODAY Sports

Take the win and keep on moving. That’s what Rutgers did tonight.

4 Thoughts:

Another Step Closer: 10-10 in league is the minimum goal. Rutgers now sits at 12-7 (8-7) in league. They need two more wins to feel safe. There are still five games remaining. The numbers are in Rutgers favor. No matter what you think about today and how they played, they won by double digits, they took care of business and they took another step toward the goal of getting in the NCAA Tournament. Not all games are clean, but Rutgers took care of business.

Defense, Defense, Defense: The Wildcats are a team that—despite being on a long losing streak—can shoot the ball. Rutgers flat out didn’t let them. Northwestern only shot 32% overall, and only scored 50 points for a Speed Limit win. Caleb McConnell and Myles Johnson deserve the kudos today. Johnson continues to be the best defensive Big Man in the Big Ten. In fact, when Northwestern made their second half run, it was when Myles was on the bench. Johnson finished with a double double: 12 points and 14 rebounds.

The Offense Works When the Ball Moves: Rutgers can’t be and isolation team. And too often today, they tried to be. McConnell and Geo Baker saved them late with a couple of threes that were of the “No! No! No! No! YES!” type. But the offense works better when players don’t dribble. Instead, the ball moves faster than the defense and Rutgers shares the game. They had only 9 assists on 23 made baskets. That’s not enough. Rutgers also has to keep attacking the rim. We all love the three point shot, but the Scarlet Knights were only 4-19 tonight. Conversely they were 19-35 from the 2 pt land and 14-16 from the free throw line. Do what works.

Ron Harper Jr Awakens: No, he’s wasn’t lights out from three, but there was an early stretch where Ron Fire returned—making 3 straight shots. Harper let the game come to him today and it was the kind of night where he pulled in a double double as well. He had 14 points and 11 rebounds. He was a key in this game, finish possessions and playing smart ball. It wasn’t the dynamic player we saw early, but it was a hint that we could be headed back that way.

Let’s Go Rutgers!