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Rutgers Trounces Wisconsin 78-56: Schocket’s Six Thoughts

The biggest win of the season for Rutgers comes at a very opportune time.

NCAA Basketball: Wisconsin at Rutgers Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Just 10 days ago, the Scarlet Knights’ season was left for dead. Rutgers had just suffered a 15-point loss to a bad Penn State team at the RAC, and the rest of the season was looking bleak. Now, the Scarlet Knights have rattled off 3 straight wins after dominating the Badgers for a 22-point victory this afternoon. Thoughts:

This Was By Far Rutgers’ Best Game: This is far and away the best the Scarlet Knights have looked all season. They never trailed, held Wisconsin’s 11th-best offense in the country (according to Kenpom) to 56 points on 33% shooting, outrebounded the Badgers, and shot the lights out from 3 (10-17; 59%). The team clicked on all cylinders and looked much better than their 13-10 record would indicate. The biggest difference in how well Rutgers played though, was their ball movement on offense. The Scarlet Knights had 18 assists on 30 made field goals, and the offense was much more fluid in the half court than we’ve seen this year. Bonus Points: Rutgers shot 8-9 from the line!

Jeremiah Williams, Outstanding: It would be next to impossible to overstate how important the return of Jeremiah Williams has been for Steve Pikiell and his team. Rutgers is 3-0 since he first drew into the lineup against Michigan, and Williams has scored in double figures in all of those games. He’s been the catalyst for the offense and turned in a vintage performance against the Badgers today. He had 18 points, 5 rebounds, and 7 assists, while only turning the ball over once. He was the piece that the Scarlet Knights were sorely missing at the start of this season and his presence on the court turns Rutgers into a completely different team. Maybe the committee should consider his return in the same way they did Mag’s absence down the stretch last season.

Cliff was Cliff: The 6’11 big man has started to string together great performances for his team recently. He was a factor in every facet of the game for Rutgers, starting the game off with a thundering alley-oop slam en route to scoring 13 points offensively, grabbing 13 strong rebounds, and coming awfully close to a triple double posting 8 blocks. This was the 5th time in 7 games that Cliff scored in double figures and his 8th double double of the season. Additionally, he’s benefited as much as anyone from the return of Jeremiah Williams as the pair hooked up for quite a few buckets today.

Noah Fernandes Shot The Lights Out: The transfer from UMass has struggled mightily at times this season, and in the 4 games leading up to this one had scored just 5 points total. Today, Fernandes was red hot, hitting on all 5 of his attempts from deep and one shot from inside the arc. His performance showed Rutgers fans the shooter they thought they were getting as he hit on a number of NBA range 3s. He just couldn’t miss today and, along with Aundre Hyatt, provided a scoring option off the bench that the Scarlet Knights have lacked this season.

Defensive Dominance: Wisconsin averages 75 points a game and Kenpom says they have the 11th best offense in the country, but you wouldn’t know that if you watched today’s game. The Badgers were thoroughly dominated by the Scarlet Knights’ defense and were run off the floor of the RAC and out the back door of Jersey Mikes Arena this afternoon. Wisconsin scored just .82 points per possession for the game and shot south of 30% from the field in the second half. Steve Pikiell and Rutgers put on another defensive masterclass today and Greg Gard’s Badgers had no answer.

What’s Next For Rutgers? I’m not sure what’s going to happen to this team, but today showed they’ve certainly got some fight left in them. In what’s been viewed as a down year for the Scarlet Knights, they’ve now won 3 straight games in the Big Ten including today’s win which marked Rutgers’ biggest margin of victory over a ranked opponent ever. Sitting at 13-10 overall and 5-7 in the conference, the Scarlet Knights have an uphill climb ahead of them but they aren’t out of things by any stretch of the imagination. Northwestern visits Piscataway on Thursday night in what should be a winnable game for Rutgers before the Scarlet Knights hit the road for a Sunday matchup against a Minnesota team that is much improved this season. If Rutgers can will its way to a pair of victories in the next 8 days all bets are off about this being a down year. Only time will tell, but it seems that the Scarlet Knights may have turned a corner over the last few weeks.