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Underdogs: Thoughts on a gutsy 61-55 victory over Michigan State

Scarlet Knights fight hard, even season series with MSU.

Big win to even the season series today. Thoughts:

Paul Mulcahy’s Second Half: Paul played a great final 20 minutes of this game. All 17 of his game-leading points were scored in the second frame, and he was the key to victory this afternoon for the Scarlet Knights. Down the stretch, he did everything himself to put Michigan State away. Multiple drives to the basket showed how dominant his offense can be and how hard it is to stop him. Although he hit just 8-of-12 free throws, he got to the line and hit some big ones at the end.

Mawot Mag: Every Scarlet Knight fan should be praying this budding star is okay. Obviously, hoping for nothing but the best for Mag himself, but an injury to him would really test this team’s depth. As we saw in this game, Oskar Palmquist was the guy Pikiell turned to for big minutes after Mag went down. While Palmquist played well against Minnesota, the drop off from Mag to him (especially on the defensive end) is significant. Mawot Mag has been one of the best players as of late, and it would be a tough blow to lose him for any amount of time.

Rebounding: Rutgers needs to be stronger on the boards. Period. Michigan State outrebounded the Scarlet Knights 44-34 and muscled their way to 13 offensive boards. That can’t happen. While Rutgers has been able to win their last two games with subpar rebounding efforts, that won’t last forever. The Scarlet Knights shouldn’t be getting outmuscled on the glass, and they won’t be able to win at Indiana or Illinois if it continues. Rebounding needs to be a focal point of practice this week.

Defense Wins Championships: Another stellar performance on the defensive end for Rutgers. The Spartans shot under 35% from the field and made just 4-of-21 threes. The Scarlet Knights forced eight steals and 14 turnovers en route to holding Michigan to just 55 points. This is almost 15 points below MSU’s scoring average. Keeping up the dominant defensive performances will take Rutgers a long way in the Big Ten — and maybe even national title race.

MSG: Bonus Thought. As cool as it is playing at MSG, maybe the Big Ten can stop taking away a Rutgers home game. Probably not though.

Two big games coming up this week at Indiana and at Illinois. Even splitting them would put Rutgers in a very good place. For now, enjoy a win against an always-tough Tom Izzo squad.