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Underdogs: Thoughts on a crucial 58-57 Win against Wisconsin

The Scarlet Knights got exactly what they needed against the Badgers

Steve Apps

Rutgers finally snaps their three-game losing streak with a win on the road vs Wisconsin. Thoughts:

Cam Spencer: The guard finally got back to his game in a big way on Saturday. He scored 22 points, including 19 in the first half when the Scarlet Knights needed any offense they could get. He drained six threes and really held the Rutgers offense together early in the game. Loved to see him be the offensive force we all know he can be. It’ll be important for him to continue to make a difference over the last two weeks of the season.

Fighting Through Adversity: With Mag already out, Rutgers was already shorthanded. Caleb McConnell getting hurt just before game time didn’t help either, but the Scarlet Knights fought back hard. Despite having perhaps the two best defenders in the Big Ten out against the Badgers, Rutgers only gave up 57 points. Wisconsin’s top scorer Chucky Hepburn was held to just six points, and the Badgers shot just 33.3% from the field. With the deck stacked against them, Rutgers got a win on the road.

Bench made a Difference: Despite scoring just seven points, the bench was huge in this game. With two starters out, Rutgers played just a seven-man rotation (Miller and Woofolk played less than two minutes each), and Derek Simpson and Dean Reiber came up big for the Scarlet Knights. On one play, Reiber even hooked up with Mulcahy for a Cliff Omoruyi-esque alley-oop. These two guys showed a lot of poise playing big minutes in an almost must-win game for Rutgers.

Offensive Concerns: While Rutgers won this game, there are some serious concerns with their offense. The Scarlet Knights continue to miss easy shots around the basket, and only put up just 58 points. Paul Mulcahy scored only six points, and if Rutgers is gonna go far this March, Paul needs to be a more consistent scoring threat. The Scarlet Knights are fourth in the Kenpom for defense, but just 128th nationally for offense. With a discrepancy like that, Rutgers is extremely susceptible to bad losses if their defense is off just a little bit. In the past, Rutgers had Ron Harper Jr. and Geo Baker, who could make shots when the team had gone cold. I’m not sure they have that this year.

Looking Ahead: Rutgers needs to find at least two more wins down the stretch if they want to make the NCAA tournament. They have one game against Minnesota, but the other three are no sure thing. Hopefully, McConnell is back for the game against Michigan and they can pick up a big W against the Wolverines.