Embracing Expectations: 4 Thoughts on Rutgers 91-88 Win Over Illinois

Catalina Fragoso-USA TODAY Sports


After a first half, where Rutgers looked out of sorts and the Illinois Fighting Illini looked like the smoother team, the Scarlet Knights rebounded. Ron Harper Jr and the rest of the Scarlet Knights took it to Illinois, shutting them down almost completely. If not for the typical free throw misses, especially in the first half, this would have been a rout.

Four Thoughts

Ron Fire, Part 6: Let’s face it, Ron Harper Jr could be headed to the NBA after this season. Especially, if he keeps this up. He made two open threes for a quiet first half, but turned it on in the second half again. He finished with 28 points, going five for eight from three and five for six from the line. He is a beast right now, and what head coach Steve Pikiell says is correct—he’s a three level scorer. He can shoot it. He has midrange game and he can get to the hoop. Hard to defend a guy like that. He should be the Big Ten player of the week, in my opinion.

Injuries: Pikiell only played seven players. Before the game, word came down that Mawot Mag had a boot on and was in street clothes. Then, early in the 2nd half, Cliff Omorouyi came up hobbled and needed help off the court. Word from Twitter was he was riding the exercise bike to stay loose, but he never came back in. Playing only seven players is risky for a wear down and if your losing three of your players long term—including Caleb McConnell—that could spell trouble. Hope for health and healing this Christmas.

Most Important Player: If you had asked me before the season, I would have said Geo Baker, the heart and soul, would be the most important player. I would have been wrong. Night in and night out, Myles Johnson is proving himself to be the most important player on the team. He is a defensive and rebounding stalwart, forcing Kofi Cockburn to have to work for everyone of his points. Johnson finished the game with 9 points, 13 rebound, 3 blocks and 3 steals, filling the statsheet. He also managed foul trouble, playing nearly the entire second half.

How Good Is This Team?: They are going to move way up in the rankings again, maybe flip flopping with Illinois to the 13th spot tomorrow. But they aren’t many weaknesses. Jacob Young is having a heck of a senior year so far, coming up just behind Ron with 24 points. Paul Mulcahy is turning in the Bayonne Brawler, not scared of anyone. He’s head game to pull the flagrant foul on Williams was just brilliant. And Montez Mathis is going 100 miles per hour. He kept Rutgers in the game in the first half and finished with 15 points. If he could make free throws, he’d be incredible. Last year this team had to fight and claw for every point. This season, Rutgers can score along with defense. They won 91-88. That is impressive.

Next up? A trip to Ohio State on Wednesday night!


The entire team

I want to rave about a few guys, but who the hell cares..this entire TEAM is special!

What a win!!! What character, what courage!!!

Let’s GOOOOOO!!!!!

Great way to tough out a win. I didn’t think we were going to win that one, especially after Omoruyi went out. Let’s hope he and Mag are okay.

Fingers crossed that this team finishes out strong before the holiday.

Incredible Game

Myles Johnson’s improvements on defense and on the FT line have been so valuable. RHJ & Jacob Young have been amazing. And the fire Mulcahy plays with…I just love this team!

The offensive strides this team has made is incredible.

3 quality wins in a row. Keep it going

I see you

Happy to see it too.

What a performance by Rutgers

I harp on FTs every week and in the second half Rutgers delivered at the line.

I thought we did a good job slowing down Ayo Dosunmu. Even though he finished with 22 points, Ron Harper Jr is the better player. Ron Harper Jr has the all around tools that Ayo lacks. Don’t get me wrong, Ayo is a good player, I just think Ron Harper is developing into an elite player and he hasn’t even reached his peak yet.

Myles Johnson is a monster. What else can you say? Young really dictated the pace of this game.

So proud of this team and their gutsy performance.

Final score misleading

We dominated that 2H

I agree

Dosunmu also scored most of his points in garbage time.

RU is "one of the best teams in the country"

That’s what one of the announcers said right after the game today. Let that sink in for a minute!
From the beginning of the game, the announcers were understandably harping about how this Illinois team had "no weaknesses." I think RU has certainly changed their minds.
This RU team can play with anyone!

Dakich said that...

its funny cos he was harping about Ayo Dosunmu and how great Illinois is. Then his tune changed about Rutgers and now they’re #1 in his eyes. Lol.

Jacob Young is really fast.

What’s his 40 time?

according to the graphic during the telecast

The team’s speed is 65 mph.

Hahahaha!! Glad I wasn't the only one confused by that reference!

My thoughts when I read that: Is 65 fast or slow? What are the speed limits for other teams? Are there residential zones in team speed? Are fast teams ticketed for speeding violations or is this an autobahn-type situations where people drive BMWs 120mphs? Because if there is no speed limit, 65 is on the slow side. And that is… bad???

So many questions.

Pikiell always tells his team he wants to hold the opposition to the speed limit

If he can hold them to 65 or lower, he thinks they can win every game.

my guess: 4.45

would be interesting to know…

That guy

We finally have "That Guy" with RH Jr. Most elite teams have a special player who can take over a game and Rutgers has that in Harper. He is surrounded by a cast that is more than supporting. They are special.
What coach P and his staff have done is remarkable. The program was pretty much left for dead and now is talked about as inebriate of the leagues best. In coach P, we have found our coach K.

Typo. As one of the leagues best.

Were you inebriated from celebrating the big RU win when you wrote that?

My gosh

the first post you wrote that I actually enjoyed! Very good!

Probably just a DKE brother

This TEAM is very good

I’ll get greedy and say that if Caleb were in the mix I might dare have used the word GREAT. RHJ is rapidly developing into a First Team All B1G star, however there are a lot of supporting cast mates who can score when it’s needed. My level of respect for Myles Johnson’s game just continues to rise. Between Cliff getting hurt and getting schooled a little bit, Myles had to be the man today and he came up ACES! Cofi is elite and Georgi is really good ( remember the number he did on us at Illinois last year? ) and yet MJ was the best big man on the court in this game. He fought them tooth and nail for every rebound and made them really work to earn their points. Great job by a team that is really a pleasure to watch and to root for!

If Myles can figure a way to stay out of foul trouble...

He’ll be juuust fine. He’s been a monster all season long

He seemed to solve that problem today - monster game by Myles to control Cockburn

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