Best week of the season for the Rutgers men’s basketball program. Let’s get right to it.
In my opinion, there were two high-level takeaways from the Ohio State win, both on the offensive end. The first was the continued development of Cliff Omoruyi as a threat in the low post. The second was Geo Baker relentlessly attacking the rim.
Cliff Omoruyi has been a force this season, throwing down monster dunk after monster dunk. The knock on him throughout his college career, however, has been that he’s still a little too raw and lacks the more refined post game of other Big Ten bigs. At times this season, he’s been too passive, content to just hot-potato the ball back out to a guard the moment he touches it.
I like what I’ve seen recently in his development though, and against Ohio State, he showed that he’s capable of scoring from the low post. In the first clip below, Cliff takes advantage of E.J. Liddell and Zed Key getting a breather and goes right to work.
He recognizes the clear out and doesn’t waste any time in getting to his spot, finishing it off with a nice pivot and right-handed jump-hook.
This next one is against Zed Key, who’s not easy to move around inside. This time, Cliff utilizes his footwork, using a drop step to create enough room for his lefty hook.
This one was pretty impressive considering we haven’t really seen much in terms of low post moves from Cliff. It’s maybe not quite as fluid as it should be yet, but you can tell there has been significant progress in that area of his game. Give him another off-season to refine the low post and his mid-range jumper (which is coming along), and we could be looking at an All-Big Ten player.
The other major takeaway relates to Geo Baker, who has had a tendency to settle for the jumpshot throughout his career. Yes, he’s hit more than a few big shots, but if you put together a montage of his best moments as a Rutgers player, almost every clip would be a step-back midrange jumper.
Geo was in attack mode against the Buckeyes. In the second half, he was probably as efficient with his shot selection as he’s ever been. Let’s take a look at a few examples.
In both of these plays, Geo recognizes the defense and goes directly to the rim. In the first one, as he dribbles back out to the three-point line, Rutgers clears out that half of the floor, leaving Geo in a one-on-one which he immediately exploits.
This next one I thought was one of the most significant plays of the game at the time, because things appeared to be slipping away. Geo grabs the long rebound and goes coast-to-coast even though there was no real numbers advantage. Important two points to grab some momentum back for RU.
The attack mode paid off in the last possession as well. I think everyone in the building was expecting a step-back here, but credit to Geo for getting downhill and drawing contact.
I’ve focused on offense for the entire Ohio State film session, but in the end, this win is not possible without the best defensive play of the season.
That clip also allows me to seamlessly transition into the next game at Wisconsin. Aaron touched on it in the game preview, but one of the biggest keys to this game was Caleb McConnell being disruptive on defense. And he did so in a variety of different ways.
Here are the last two Wisconsin possessions of the first half. In both cases, Rutgers is in a 2-3 zone and McConnell freelances to blow up the action, showing off his elite anticipation.
For much of the game, McConnell was assigned to Johnny Davis, who came in averaging 21 points/game. But other than a brief sequence in the second half, Davis never really got going, thanks to McConnell’s constant pressure.
In my opinion, McConnell is beginning to separate himself in the race for Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year because of his versatility. It’s not just on-ball defense, or help defense, or defensive rebounding. He does it all, and shows off a little of everything in the clip below.
Take a look at the effort here after Wisconsin passes out for a three-pointer. McConnell spins and helps Geo with a closeout, then immediately recovers to box out his man and go after the rebound. His diving save leads directly to a Paul Mulcahy layup at the other end.
Here’s another one that I love. Under a minute left, Wisconsin needs to score quick, Davis being guarded by Ron Harper Jr. McConnell recognizes that Davis is the primary option and shuffles over to help as Davis drives right. As soon as Davis goes behind-the-back, McConnell is there to rip the ball out, leading to another Rutgers layup. Game over.
Upcoming Week: vs Illinois on Wednesday Feb 16th / @ Purdue on Sunday Feb 20th