The time was ripe. Rutgers, coming off a COVID pause, had shown a rejuvenated team outlook on offense, though against cupcake squads. Michigan was hit with their own COVID problems and was coming into Piscataway severely undermanned. If there was ever a time to beat the only team in the Big Ten you hadn’t beaten—it was now.
And they did.
Geo Baker On Fire: It was the Geo Baker show tonight. The fifth year senior is completely healed from his hamstring injury and is playing like a senior should. He has been hot from three in the first two games back from the pause, but really turned it on tonight. Baker scored 27 points, 4 assists, 1 steal and 4 rebounds. The game ran through Geo tonight and he made sure the Scarlet Knights came out with the W. If you want to critique him, slightly, and I know a lot of people in the comments love to critique, he could have been a little better at the free throw line going 4-7, but that is a nitpick and no one is perfect. Geo is already a Rutgers legend, but if he can play at this level for the rest of the season? It’s a tall ask, but again, he’s a senior.
Ron Harper and the Three Point Shot: That was fun, wasn’t it? Especially the first half. The team, particularly Ron, came out of #RonFire, making 7 threes in the first half. Ron scored 20 points and went 5-6 from deep. The threes aren’t going to fall like this all season, but when they do, you have to take advantage. Rutgers did tonight and made sure the points held up. This is what Rutgers needs. Geo and Ron to be putting points, and then everyone else chips in. The formula worked tonight.
Caleb McConnell and the Little Things: At the open practice at the Barn this year, Steve Pikiell said McConnell’s goal was to be the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. He already leads the Big Ten in steals and tonight, he affected the game in so many ways. Hampered by two fouls in the first half, he only played 7 minutes, but in the second half, he was everywhere. He defended. He forced Michigan into bad decisions. He even made two key threes. McConnell was the important cog tonight, and affected the game on all different aspects. Such fun to watch.
Defeated, No More: Rutgers had never beaten Michigan. Not only during Big Ten play, but all time. They were 0-14. They lost to them in the Final Four in 1976. They lost to them in the NIT final in 2004. Michigan has always had Rutgers number. Too many weapons, too much history—whatever it was—they had always done it. But tonight, that ended. Rutgers came out ready to play and ready to win. They got that last little checkmark off their back. Rutgers absolutely belongs in the Big Ten. The basketball team is something to be proud of. Steve Pikiell continues to make history. Lots of basketball to play, but this was a fun one. On to a tricky Nebraska team on Saturday afternoon.