With a second chance to earn a what many considered would be an NCAA Tournament clinching victory, Rutgers lost to Northwestern 65-53 on Senior Night at the RAC. The Scarlet Knights jumped out to a 10-3 lead early but followed it with a ten minute stretch in which they scored just one field goal. It was an offensive struggle all night and ultimately held RU back from having a chance to win.
Rutgers shot just 36.4% from the floor including 11 of 20 on layups (55.0%), 2 of 17 (11.8%) from three and just 11 of 19 from the foul line (52.4%). They committed 16 turnovers and were outrebounded 40-34 by the visiting Wildcats.
“I thought we got some good looks too,” said head coach Steve Pikiell. “I’m going to watch the tape, but we didn’t make a three in the second half. The free throws too. We could have really kind of hung around and made it a little bit interesting with the free throws. We had, early in the year, shot really well from the free throw line and these guys are good foul shooters but it didn’t go in. We’re not a great scoring team to begin with and they’re really good defensively, but I still think we could have won this game if we just kind of grinded a few possessions when we had some momentum just to finish off some plays and we just didn’t do enough. Again, obviously didn’t do enough to beat Northwestern.”
While the defense forced 17 turnovers against Northwestern, a team that rarely makes so many mistakes, RU couldn’t take advantage. They only scored 13 points off of turnovers. In addition, the Scarlet Knights grabbed 11 offensive rebounds but could only score 8 second chance points. Failing to capitalize in both areas really hurt them in the loss. They did hold a 18-5 advantage in points in transition, but it simply wasn’t enough.
The Wildcats were led by Brooks Barnhizer who scored 16 points and had 10 rebounds along with Boo Buie scoring 14 second half points.
The Scarlet Knights were led by Cliff Omoruyi who scored 14 points on 7 of 12 shooting along with 6 rebounds, 2 blocks and a steal. Derek Simpson was a spark at times but struggled to finish as well. He finished with 12 points on 5 of 13 shooting along with 2 assists and 2 rebounds. Despite not shooting at a high clip, it’s clear that Simpson gives the Rutgers offense a gear they need more of moving forward.
Caleb McConnell played his last home game at the RAC. He scored just 2 points on 1 of 6 shooting. However, he grabbed 8 rebounds and swiped 6 steals, passing Myles Mack for second all-time in program history. His impact on the program over the years has been immense.
Paul Mulcahy struggled once again, finishing 2 of 9 from the floor for 8 points along with 5 assists, 4 rebounds and 3 turnovers. Cam Spencer had 9 points on 2 of shooting, which simply isn’t enough shot attempts for the best shooter on the team. Spencer also contributed 5 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals.
Rutgers (18-13; 10-10) is the No. 9 seed in the Big Ten Tournament. They’ll face No. 8 seed Michigan (17-14; 11-9) on Thursday at noon ET in Chicago. Both teams are fighting for an NCAA Tournament bid. It’s another must win for each side. Rutgers has now lost three straight home games by double digits and six of their last eight overall.
Here is my rapid reaction video. I discuss key reasons for the loss, the disappointment of the 2-6 finish to the regular season and more.
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