While the Scarlet Knights are walking away from an early season six-day, three-game test with two losses, there are a lot of positives to take away from Rutgers’ performance as the it prepares for Saturday’s contest at Fordham.
After playing its first five games at the RAC, Rutgers went to Miami and took care of business, defeating the Hurricanes, 57-54. There was some concern about the inexperience of the Scarlet Knights being able to travel, but those concerns disappeared after a strong showing in Coral Gables.
Rutgers then headed home for a Friday night matchup against then No. 8 Michigan State. In front of a sold out RAC crowd, the Scarlet Knights gave the Spartans everything they could handle before ultimately losing, 78-67. The game was not as lopsided as the score would suggest, with Rutgers only down two at the half.
Rutgers was able to keep Michigan State to 10 points under its season average, but was without Geo Baker for most of the first half due to foul trouble.
Eugene Omoruyi contributed a double-double in the loss with 16 points and 11 rebounds, but one of the biggest storylines of the game was the quality play from freshman Caleb McConnell. McConnell, who came in for Baker, played only 11 minutes but contributed seven points and a rebound during a critical part of the ball game.
Down by two, McConnell drained his first collegiate basket to give the Scarlet Knights a 26-25 lead with three minutes left in the half.
Rutgers followed up the Michigan State game by traveling north to face then No. 12 Wisconsin and play another tough game. Leading 31-26 at the half, the Scarlet Knights faded down the stretch before ultimately dropping the game, 69-64.
Omoruyi once again lead Rutgers with 17 points and eight rebounds, while Baker was right behind Omoruyi with 15 points.
Strength in Numbers
One thing that Rutgers has this year that they haven’t had in the past is depth. Even last year, the Scarlet Knights relied on Corey Sanders to carry them. If Sanders was cold, it was going to be an ugly game.
This year, between Omoruyi, Baker and Peter Kiss – who had 23 points last weekend – Rutgers has more than one playmaker. This depth is going to be huge if Rutgers wants to play spoiler in the Big Ten.
Freshman Shaq Carter had a big showing on Monday, with nine points and four rebounds. Carter showed to the staff that, when senior Shaq Doorson is ineffective, they have a viable option in “Small Shaq.”
The Scarlet Knights now prepare for the 54-mile drive north, when they will face the Fordham Rams on Saturday. The overall series between the schools is tied 27-27, with Rutgers winning 10 of the last 11. Fordham currently sits at 6-2, with its two losses coming at Houston Baptist University and a double-overtime thriller at Maine.
Nick Honor currently leads the Rams with 17.5 points per game, while Chuba Ohams leads the team with 6.1 rebounds per game. As a team, Fordham averages 75 points per game while allowing their opponents to score 64.6 points per game.
This will not be an easy game for the Scarlet Knights, but it should be a winnable game. The Rams are coming off a devastating loss on Tuesday and have yet to play a team of Rutgers’ caliber this season. However, Fordham has historically played well against Rutgers at home, leading the series 16-4 when playing at home.
Last Week’s Positives
As the focus shifts to Saturday’s game at Fordham, it’s important to look at the positives from last week.
Rutgers is just 40 minutes of complete basketball away from a few major upsets. Yes, it stings to fall to 5-3, but Rutgers has to be happy with how it played two of the best teams in the country.
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