Rutgers Men's Basketball
Cliff Omoruyi (Photo courtesy Rutgers Athletics)

Ohio State spoils Rutgers' Senior Night

Unfortunately, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights (15-16) fell short to conference rival the Ohio State Buckeyes (15-16) on senior night, 73-51. The Scarlet Knights will begin reframing their mindset on the B1G Ten tournament where they will have an opportunity to put themselves in a position to compete in the NIT tournament. Despite the tough loss, the crowd and atmosphere surrounding the game on Sunday evening was electric. The arena remains to be one of the loudest and most unique arena in the country 

"I want to thank the fans,” Rutgers head coach Steve Pikiell stated. “They came out all year and they were here all day. Obviously, this wasn't how I wanted our senior day to go. Missing shots hurt our energy, and Clifford (Omoruyi) fouled out early into the game. This wasn't how I wanted this to go but I want to thank everyone who stayed, the fans make this place special.”

What Went Wrong for Rutgers?

Early in the game, the Scarlet Knights began struggling to find their offensive rhythm, due to the intensity of the Buckeyes' defense. The numerous and costly turnovers at the beginning of the game ultimately cost them an 11-point deficit a minute into the game. Defensively, the Scarlet Knights struggled not fouling in crucial moments of the game. Rutgers star center Cliff Omoruyi, who was recently named B1G Ten’s first-team All-Defense, recorded two fouls in the opening minutes of the game, naturally affecting rotations and overall gameplay. Overall, the Scarlet Knights struggled to get anything going. 

Briefly, before halftime, the Scarlet Knights appeared to find life and appeared to claw back after being down by a double-digit deficit. That said, the fight in this team was not only respectable, but what makes this team so special. Nearly closing the gap within one possession, the Scarlet Knights gave many hope. Despite the fight, the Scarlet Knights couldn’t find their rhythm in their halfcourt sets. They later broke down defensively, which allowed the Buckeyes to have anything they wanted. The presence of Omoruyi has proven to be vital and pivotal to the identity of Rutgers. Whenever Omoruyi isn’t in the lineup, the portrayal of Rutgers's energy and overall gameplay is drastically different. 

"They were connected in the hurdles, and they never got discouraged,” Pikiell continued. “I'm proud of when we show minutes of that this year. We haven't been consistent and that's on me as a coach. There are some games, as you know, that are not as excited about our fight as others. But you know, these guys have done that for four years. Cliff and Oscars for five years and Aundre's whole time here. And the one thing I have a lot of faith in these guys is that they'll be ready to play when we head out to that tournament I have."

What Makes This Rutgers Senior Class So Special?

Rutgers has experienced something that may not possibly reoccur in college sports ever again and that’s loyalty. Five of the eight Scarlet Knights graduating stayed all five seasons with Rutgers. That said, with the latest addition of NIL (name image and likeness), some believe this will forever alter the trajectory of coaching and developing players. Some believe the NIL will dictate many of these athletes, as well as lose many great athletes to the NBA Draft. These eight seniors were consistent and helped build the identity of the Scarlet Knights. 

“This senior year class was amazing, and I am thankful for all of the time these guys spent with us,” Pikiell emotionally explained. “They have been great representatives of the university and have been awesome students. Today wasn't a great moment but I'm proud of them. This loss is on me, I didn't have them ready. With five seniors starting I thought we would get off to a better start, but we fought back. Ohio State plays well and I want to congratulate them."

"I've learned a lot of lessons from it, you got to change the timeline of guys making decisions, and myself,” he continued. “We can't have guys in June, July, and August deciding because it is hard to replace people. The great part is we have an awesome class coming in, and we need to because we're losing an awesome class."

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