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Underdogs: Thoughts on the 65-53 Loss to Northwestern

Rutgers drops a tough one on senior night.

Tough one against the Wildcats tonight. Rutgers lost a “must-win” game, Thoughts:

Stagnant Offense: Not really sure what to say about the Rutgers offense anymore. They don’t move the ball enough, and the players don’t move off the ball effectively either. The Scarlet Knights had a six-minute scoring drought in the first half, another one of those cold stretches that appear to be happening all too often recently. Rutgers scored 53 points, but it was too little too late as they had just 42 at the under four-minute timeout in the second half. If Rutgers is going to win against Michigan this week, they need to drastically revitalize the offense. Whether that be giving Simpson more minutes, making more of an effort to feed Cliff on the block, or a host of other things, that should be the focal point of practice this week.

Northwestern Out-Toughed Rutgers: It isn’t often that I think Rutgers gets outplayed in the physicality and toughness department, but that happened tonight. The Wildcats outrebounded Rutgers 40-34 and had 13 second-chance points on 11 offensive boards. Northwestern also threw up countless lobs to Matt Nicholson, and the Scarlet Knights just didn’t seem to have an answer.

Not Their Night: Rutgers just didn’t have it tonight. Even though they fought to within four at the break, after the first five minutes of this game, it felt like Northwestern was in the driver's seat. Every time Rutgers would put a few shots together, the Wildcats would hit something to quiet the crowd. The Scarlet Knights shot just 2-for-17 from three-point range (0-for-9 in the second half) despite many of those shots being good looks. Sometimes the ball just doesn't go in the net, and that’s what it felt like for Rutgers tonight.

Senior Day: While this is McConnell’s final regular season game at JMA (the RAC), it may also be Paul Mulcahy’s and Aundre Hyatt’s as well. If that is the case for any of these guys, they certainly played their hearts out on the banks. While Mulcahy has slumped recently (I think this may be due to a nagging injury from earlier this season), he has been a hugely important part of this program for 4 years now. Caleb has played through adversity his whole time at Rutgers. He couldn’t practice yesterday because of his back and hip, but he came out tonight and posted 6 steals and 8 rebounds. A gritty performance from a tough guy. It was clear in the postgame press conference how much he cares about this team. Aundre Hyatt has only spent two years at Rutgers but was a great addition through the portal by Pikiell. He added a scoring tough on the wing that the Scarlet Knights needed. All three of these guys were huge pieces of the puzzle for Rutgers and should be honored as such regardless of the score earlier tonight. Palmquist also walked tonight as it’s unclear if he plans to return next season.

Look Ahead: Rutgers gets Michigan for their first game of the Big Ten Tournament on Thursday. The Wolverines are a team that we struggle to beat, but we’re going to have to if we want any chance at the NCAAs. More on that game later this week.

Although Rutgers didn’t end the regular season on a high note, the tournament is certainly not out of reach for this team. For now, let’s take it one game at a time.