The Scarlet Knights couldn’t get it going tonight and fall to 9-6 (3-2). Four Thoughts.
Credit Penn State: The Nittany Lions were well-prepared tonight under new head coach Micah Shrewsberry. They stuck to Ron Harper Jr and Geo Baker like glue, fighting through screens to keep on them and getting them out of their rhythm. They also doubled the guards who drove into the paint. Rutgers perimeter shooters didn’t rotate to the open spot of the floor and the guards didn’t have anywhere to go. Rutgers was forced to force everything. I think Rutgers tried to play hard and didn’t come out flat, but they got frustrated by Penn State’s very good defense. However, when the jumpers aren’t falling and you’re taking out of your defense, you have to find other ways. Did Rutgers have any points in transition? Penn State is no slouch this year, particularly at home. They gave Purdue everything they could handle over the weekend.
Road Woes: Rutgers thrives in front of crowds at the RAC (Jersey Mike’s Arena) and struggles in more cavernous arenas. I think that was clear in 2019-2020 and is starting to prove true again here. Rutgers is 0-5 on the road. The games against DePaul and UMass were close, but they shouldn’t have been. And ranked Seton Hall, Illinois and now Penn State have taken it to them. It’s been said before, but Rutgers needs a few road wins to make up for those horrible early season losses. Tonight would have helped. They now face Maryland this week. Maryland has talent, even though they’re going through their own coaching transition. You can’t sleep on anyone in this league, so Rutgers has to get up off the carpet on Saturday.
Cliff Omoruyi: The clear bright spot of the evening. The big man played his role to a T. He blocked shots. He scored points and he rebounded. He had a double double with 12 points and 12 rebounds. Omoruyi is turning into the player we all believed he could be when he was recruited here. He’s even starting to develop a bit of a longer jump shot. Now, the Scarlet Knights need to keep getting him the ball. There’s potential that he can turn into one of the better big men in Rutgers history, certainly recent Rutgers history. Appreciate him Rutgers fans.
The Jaden Jones Conundrum: Jones was the signature recruit of this class and lately he can’t find the floor. It’s clear his defense needs work, and there were times early where it appeared he needed to run the offensive plays smoother. But there have also been moments where you can see flash, whether it was in the final minutes against Nebraska or some moments in the out of conference schedule. I am not a coach and I don’t see practices, but one hopes that Jones will start to develop. Oskar Palmquist is starting to find his shot and Dean Reiber has had some flashes both in this game and the last one. Let’s hope Jones finds that too.