Rutgers eeked out another close Big Ten win against the Buckeyes, avenging their loss from earlier this season. Thoughts:
Cam Spencer, Again: It feels like Cam Spencer has been great every game recently. He went for 21 Pts, 7 Reb, 6 Ast, and 4 steals against the Buckeyes. He was perfect last night, save for 2 uncharacteristic missed free throws (he still went 9-11 at the line). He has provided elite shooting and lockdown defense night in and night out for the Scarlet Knights. In years past Rutgers has lacked that elite jump shooter, but Spencer brings that dimension to the offense. Defensively he continues to rack up the steals and be a consistent presence on defense.
Mawot Mag, Developed: Mag played the best game of his career last night against the Buckeyes. He hit 2 threes, including the game-winner in OT from the corner, and grabbed 8 rebounds. Mag has really come into his own this season, as he has become an elite defender and rebounder while providing an offensive output as well. This is an extremely encouraging sign for Pikiell and co. as Mag has another 2 years of eligibility after this one. Rutgers is a better defensive team when he stays out of foul trouble, last night shows why.
Getting to the Line: Rutgers won this game at the free throw line, and not because of their high clip. The Scarlet Knights shot just 74.1% from the line, but they took 27 attempts. Rutgers often shoots significantly fewer free throws than opponents, but last night they shot 15 more than OSU. This led to 20 points at the line for Rutgers which made all the difference in this tight low scoring game. Cliff Omoruyi has also been steadily improving at the line, going 6-8 last night.
Inconsistent Offense: Rutgers's offense, albeit better, still isn’t as consistent as it needs to be if they want to make a deep run in March. They had a stretch early in the first half where they allowed OSU to go on a 15-0 run due to an inability to put anything in the basket. The Scarlet Knights shot just 33.9% from the field and continue to struggle around the basket. Rutgers also seems to commit an offensive foul on just about every fast break, which limits the easy buckets they can produce in those situations.
ACE BAILEY: Everyone remembers being excited about Cliff’s commitment. He was a top-50 player and the highest-rated recruit to come in under Pikiell, but Ace Bailey is a whole different animal. He is a consensus top-10 player in the 2024 class and someone that will make a massive impact as soon as he’s on campus. With his commitment and Dellquan Warren’s, Rutgers holds the number 3 class nationally in 2024. The Scarlet Knights are also still very much in contention for Dylan Harper, another 5-star. Not only is Pikiell developing talent, but he’s now bringing in more talent than Rutgers has ever had.