A win is a win, but Saturday’s 68-65 OT win over Columbia showed just how deep seeded the Scarlet Knights’ offensive woes are.
The Scarlet Knights fell behind 15 points with six minutes left in the first half and went into the locker room with a 10-point deficit, before battling back late in the second half. Two of Eugene Omoruyi’s 18 points came on a layup with less than a minute on the clock to give Rutgers a 54-52 lead. A pair of made free throws for Columbia sent the game to overtime.
In the end, the Scarlet Knights were able to secure the three-point victory when sophomore Geo Baker drained two free throws in the final minute of the game.
Saturday’s contest at the RAC was eerily similar to 2017’s 75-73 OT loss against Stony Brook which sent the Scarlet Knights into Christmas looking for answers. While Rutgers escaped on Saturday with the win, there are still more questions than answers at this point for the Scarlet Knights.
At the beginning of the season, head coach Steve Pikiell told the media that he believed his team was much better offensively this year than they have been in the past. Eleven games into the season, Rutgers has shown that their offensive deficiencies are not a thing of the past.
With 11 games under their belts, the Scarlet Knights are shooting just .411 from the field. Their 3-point percentage sits at an anemic 32 percent, and if you take out the first two games against Fairleigh Dickinson and Drexel – when the Scarlet Knights shot a combined 26-for-46 behind the arc – Rutgers drains only 26.1 percent of its deep shots. Even still, the Scarlet Knights are shooting 27 percent from 3 over five losses this season.
Perhaps the most alarming part of Rutgers’ long ball troubles is the number of attempts the Scarlet Knights are making from behind the arc. In 248 attempts, Rutgers has drained only 79 3-pointers. For a team thats offensive scheme is fairly dependent on the 3-ball, the Scarlet Knights have struggled to make their shots from deep.
Omoruyi, who has shown incredible improvement throughout the first 11 games of his junior campaign, leads the team with a three-point percentage of 40% (12-30). Issa Thiam sits closely behind him, making 15 of this 39 three-point attempts while Geo Baker os 27-of-72 from behind the arc.
In addition to the anemic 3-point shooting, Rutgers has struggled mightily from the charity stripe this season. Eleven games into the year, the Scarlet Knights have made 62 percent of their free throws. At times their free throw shooting situation has felt much more dire than that.
Freshman Caleb McConnell leads the way for the Scarlet Knights, making 10 of his 12 free throw attempts. Behind McConnell, Peter Kiss and Baker – who are making 77 percent and 70 percent of their free throws thus far this season, respectively – the Scarlet Knights have struggled. Four of their starters and key rotation players are shooting under 50 percent from the free throw line, and many of their misses come in big moments in the game.
The Scarlet Knights are not the offensive team that many expected them to be after the first four games of the season. When the 3-point shots stopped falling, so did the winning.
The Scarlet Knights’ stellar defense has been able to keep them in games; Rutgers ranks second in the Big Ten in rebounds and fourth in blocks and steals. The defense is not going to be able to win games for the Scarlet Knights once they hit the meat of their Big Ten slate and the Rutgers’ offense needs to be much better than it has been.
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