Friday afternoon in Indianapolis was a missed opportunity for No. 4 Rutgers as they lost to No. 5 Iowa 84-74 in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament. After securing the first double bye for the program since joining the Big Ten, RU failed to advance to a first ever semifinal appearance.
After a strong start in which the Scarlet Knights jumped out to a 15-5 lead, the Hawkeyes made an expected run back into the game. Iowa switched to a zone and Rutgers missed eight shots in a row. Keegan Murray got rolling, Jordan Bohannon hit some shots and the Scarlet Knights lost intensity on the defensive end. It resulted in a 36-17 run to end the first half.
Iowa had a 16-2 advantage in fast break points and had a +10 rebounding margin heading into halftime leading 41-32. Transition defense was abysmal in the opening frame as Rutgers was unable to regain the hop in their step they started the game with.
Rutgers trailed by 16 points midway through the second half before cutting the lead in half. It was an 8 point game when they had a chance to score but Ron Harper Jr. missed near the rim. Next possession Cliff Omoruyi missed a dunk. Iowa scored after both misses and it was back to a 16 point deficit. Credit Rutgers for scoring three baskets at the end to make it a 10 point loss and not giving up.
Geo Baker played well and led the way with 23 points on 9 of 16 shooting, 3 rebounds, 3 steals and 2 assists. Paul Mulcahy had 13 points, 9 assists, 6 rebounds and 1 turnover. Cliff Omoruyi had 17 points and 7 rebounds while Ron Harper Jr. was held to 13 points on 5 of 16 shooting.
Keegan Murray dominated with 26 points and 8 rebounds while Jordan Bohannon and Tony Perkins added 16 points each for Iowa.
In regard to the officiating, RU committed 24 fouls to Iowa’s 14. The Hawkeyes took advantage by making 25 of 27 attempts from the foul line while the Scarlet Knights were 10 of 14. There was also six technicals called in the game including four on RU. Strength coach David Van Dyke got ejected late from the bench after picking up his second in the game. Patrick McCaffrey was tossed as well.
While the officiating left a lot to be desired, Rutgers did a poor job handling the adversity that came with poor calls. They didn’t adjust as the referees didn’t allow a lot of physical play that they’re accustomed to. They stopped attacking on offense and got frustrated.
The Scarlet Knights didn’t lose because of bad calls. They lost because they didn’t handle the emotions of this moment well at all. You can’t have defensive breakdowns and letdowns with intensity when playing in a win or go home situation. Iowa seized the moment and Rutgers didn’t. They couldn’t string together enough stops to stop the bleeding in the first half not enough to truly threaten Iowa in the second half.
Bench play was a huge factor as well with Iowa out scoring Rutgers 18-0. They also finished with a 20-4 edge in fast break points. RU was better defensively in transition in the second half but never got out running on the offensive end.
That being said, a 10 point loss to a top 15 team in the NET should not mark the end for this team. Despite the disappointing performance, don’t let emotions blur logic and reason. Rutgers has eight Top 40 NET wins including two on the road. Those two bad losses against Lafayette and UMass will keep us up for the next 48 hours. However, not many teams have as many good wins as Rutgers. Metrics are certainly a cause for concern but if the Selection Committee really does account for full body of work, the Scarlet Knights should get in. We’ll have more analysis later tonight.