Everything was going against Rutgers. They were down 8 points with under 17 minutes left in the game. Mawot Mag was out with an injury, and the Scarlet Knights were struggling mightily on offense. Instead, this team leaned on its veterans and it led to an important 61-55 victory over Michigan State at a raucous Madison Square Garden.
After shooting 24.1% in the first half, Rutgers adjusted by attacking the rim and getting inside. They shot 57.1% from the floor and took 27 free throw attempts in the second half. It resulted in outscoring the Spartans 42-30 after the break. (https://wellyx.com/)
Paul Mulcahy took the game over down the stretch and scored all of his game high 17 points in the second half. With Rutgers leading 47-44 with three minutes left in the game, Mulcahy scored on back to back drives through the heart of the MSU defense. It extended the lead to seven points and Rutgers then closed out the game from the foul line. Mulcahy finished 4 of 7 from the floor and 8 of 12 from the line along with 3 assist and 3 steals.
Cliff Omoruyi was fantastic on both ends. He was the focal point on offense when Rutgers got back into the game and he was strong in defending the rim the whole second half. Omoruyi finished with 15 points, 12 rebounds and 3 blocks.
While Caleb McConnell struggled at times on the offensive end, he did finish 9 points on 2 of 6 shooting and 4 of 7 from the line along with 3 assists. However, he gave a tremendous defensive performance that frustrated MSU point guard AJ Hoggard into five turnovers. He also kept him from going downhill and it resulted in the Spartans taking a lot of contested jump shots. McConnell passed Rashod Kent for third all-time in steals in program history.
Cam Spencer struggled from three going 0 of 5, but finished 5 of 6 from the foul line for 7 points and 5 rebounds while playing well defensively. Aundre Hyatt also struggled with a 1 of 6 from the floor and 0 of 4 from behind the arc. Derek Simpson got the minutes late off the bench and hit a big jumper and two crucial free throws down the stretch finishing with 4 points.
After starting the game just 10 of 18 from the foul line, RU made 12 of 16 down the stretch including 10 of their final 12 attempts.
In a game that Rutgers held a -10 rebounding margin and shot just 38% from the floor, they earned a much needed win behind elite defense and an ability to close out the game. The Spartans shot just 34% from the floor including 4 of 21 from behind the arc.
The Scarlet Knights are now 16-7 overall and 8-4 in Big Ten play in second place.
To watch game highlights, both postgame press conferences and more, click here.
Here is my rapid reaction video that includes the importance of how this team won and what it means for their long term potential. I also discuss the Mawot Mag injury and more.
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