Rutgers ran into the Iowa Hawkeye buzzsaw and despite a great start could not keep. They fell by ten.
Dayton or the NIT: That’s the question right now. It’s why Pikiell was pressing with thirty seconds to go. The Scarlet Knights couldn’t afford to get analytically blown out, even though they were playing a quad 1 team. Rutgers was able to whittle a lead down to ten for the final score and we will see how that affects Rutgers on Selection Sunday. It’s a big question and one we will be sweating out Sunday night. By the eye test, Rutgers has done enough to get into the NCAAs, even if it’s the last team in. But, with some bid stealers still out there and the losses to Lafayette and UMass still hanging over their heads in terms of metrics, the potential to be the top seed in the NIT is still there. Bite your fingernails until we find out.
Tight Whistle: That’s going to be the story of this game. The referees didn’t want Rutgers to play their physical style of defense against the Hawkeyes. Iowa was able to get to the line 27 times and made a remarkable 25 of their shots. That was the difference right there. If Rutgers even cuts that in half it’s a much different game. The fouls were fouls, even that cylinder call is the right call—even if it is a dumb one. But, when you take away Rutgers ability to play tough, physical defense, it’s going to be a long night. And then Dave VanDyke took two technical fouls and got ejected. It was not a good night for the stripes.
On Offense, Rutgers was Good: Rutgers was good enough offensively to survive a down game from Ron Harper Jr. Geo Baker had 23, Cliff Omoruyi was incredibly impressive with 17 and Paul Mulcahy had 13 and 9 assists. Offense wasn’t the problem—they even sprinted out to a quick 15-5 lead. But Iowa’s zone fluster Rutgers just long enough to allow them to make a run and get back in it and then the whistles started. It’s a shame too. Could have been a fun ending other wise.
On the Boards: The other weakness has been something that has flustered Rutgers all year. Iowa out rebounded the Scarlet Knights 34 to 28. Keegan Murray was great with 26 points and 4 offensive rebounds. It felt like the Scarlet Knights could not complete defensive possessions, and Iowa had 8 offensive boards. Even though Rutgers had 10 offensive boards themselves, they couldn’t make Iowa pay. Let’s face it, Iowa is probably the hottest team in the Big Ten right now—and Rutgers couldn’t match it.
So, now we sweat. See you Sunday.