On the last defensive stand of Rutgers’ 58-57 win over Wisconsin on Saturday, the Badgers took two shots as the final seconds ticked off the clock. Standout freshman Connor Essegian, who was averaging 17.2 points in his previous five contest, drove into the paint still looking for his first field goal with the game on the line.
Enter Rutgers rim defender Cliff Omoruyi. This final possession of the game may end up being the perfect clip to highlight his career in scarlet. Having played all but two minutes the entire day, Omoruyi added another gear with the game on the line. While it was a total team effort in gutting out the crucial road victory,
Cliff defended the running drive well and Essegian missed the shot with six seconds remaining. However, Max Klesmit grabbed the offensive rebound. The Badgers had another chance but when Klesmit drove into the paint, Omoruyi was there. After Klesmit found Essegian open on the perimeter, Cliff made an extraordinary play on the ball. He was able to block the potential game winning shot.
Rutgers prevailed on the road by 1 point without Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Caleb McConnell. A big reason why was the defense of Omoruyi. While the team defense was very good and rotated well throughout the game, including the final possession, it was Cliff who reached a another level.
He did four critical things to save the day all on the final play.
Cliff contested the driving layup, deflected the ball away from the rim, stopped dribble penetration into the paint and then lastly somehow blocked the final shot of the game. The ground he made up to block the shot was otherworldly. It was incredible. He wasn’t leaving the outcome to chance and took matters into his own hands.
Watch it here.
— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) February 18, 2023
Omoruyi has improved on the defensive end this season. Cliff is No. 2 in the Big Ten and No. 28 nationally in block rate. He is also No. 5 in the league in defensive rebounding rate as well as No. 62 nationally. Cliff has improved significantly in both areas this season.
The Rutgers big man is on pace to become the first player in 32 years to lead the team in scoring, rebounding, and blocks. However, his ability to defend the rim, alter shots and get Rutgers out in transition off of defensive rebounds has been huge. His ability to become more involved and more assertive on both ends.
There are four regular season games to and then the postseason. Cliff Omoruyi is as important to Rutgers as any player. If any fans doubted that take, he made that fact crystal clear on the final possession of a critical win over the Badgers.
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