Rutgers defeated Maryland in an ugly low-scoring game Thursday night. Thoughts:
Elite Defense: The Scarlet Knights played unbelievable defense once again against Maryland. The Terps scored just 17 first-half points and were held to 50 for the entire game. Rutgers forced 20 turnovers and racked up 11 steals. Rutgers never let Maryland truly get comfortable in this game and forced Maryland into two 5+ minute scoring droughts in just the first half. While Maryland’s offense was better in the second half, the Rutgers defense continued to get stops when needed and kept this game out of reach for the Terps.
Inconsistent Offense: As great as the defense was in the first half, Rutgers was up by just seven points at halftime. At times it felt like Rutgers was completely out of sync offensively, and the Scarlet Knights had plenty of chances to pull away early in the game but failed to due to the offense. While the offense got better as the game wore on, they need to get out to a better start. Cliff was great defensively, but Rutgers will need more than 4 points from its leading scorer in a Big Ten game. That’s not to say it was all bad as Rutgers had three players in double digits and had 18 fast break points. The flashes of a good offense are there, but if Rutgers wants to go far in the tournament they need more consistency.
Paul Mulcahy is one of the Best Guards in the Big Ten: There, I said it. Paul Mulcahy is one of the best in the conference. He was brilliant again last night, with 15 points on 6-6 shooting, an assist, and two steals. Paul has steadily improved each year and is now among the best in the Big Ten. Not only is he scoring and dishing out assists, but his defense has also improved significantly over the last few years. His leadership also stood out as after getting fouled hard on a layup, he used the moment to gather up the team for a few seconds. That leadership is what Rutgers needs from its veteran players.
This Rutgers Team is Special: It really didn’t feel like Rutgers played all that well last night. While the defense was great, it didn’t ever feel like the team was at the top of their game. But here’s the thing, Rutgers still won by 14. Everyone knows this was not a great game for Rutgers by any stretch of the imagination, but they still beat a Big Ten team by double digits. If that doesn’t excite you for the rest of the season, I don't know what will.
Free Throws: Once again Rutgers was great at the line, going 12 of 14 at the charity stripe. While it wasn’t the difference in this game, the Scarlet Knights have continued to show improvement in this area throughout the season. Some might’ve said that this was Rutgers's kryptonite in the past, but it seems that the team has really taken it upon itself to improve in this area. A huge difference from previous seasons.