Rutgers, Nebraska

Rutgers Out of Sync in Home Loss to Nebraska

The Rutgers starting five on Tuesday versus Nebraska was the Cam Spencer, Cliff Omoruyi, Aundre Hyatt, Paul Mulcahy, and Caleb McConnell. Unfortunately with Mawot Mag’s torn ACL, he is no longer a weapon to this previously relatively dominant team for the rest of the season; the dynamic has changed drastically.

Rutgers was favored heavily for this matchup, but per usual, the Scarlet Knights were aware that it wouldn't be in their best interest to underestimate the Cornhuskers. Contrary to the beliefs of those who support Rutgers now, the Knights have historically been the reigning underdogs. It was known that the Cornhuskers were going to try their best to capitalize on their most recent win over Wisconsin in a long and tedious game of overtime. 

Tip off was snatched by Rutgers and the boys get active right away, lots of passing and deliberate communication to secure a bucket for three by Hyatt in the first minute. Nebraska responds with a two moments later to reassure the loud sea of scarlet fans that they will not be laying down this game. Within the next minute, Hyatt sets up in the same beloved sweet spot outside the arc and nails another three to send the crowd wild, setting the tone for what will be a hopeful outcome tonight.

Omoruyi begins heating up and makes a few shots that are vital in keeping the Scarlet Knights  and leads his teammates to begin taking bold shots while allowing them to see the court when it is open 

Newbies hit the floor after a timeout at 16-16, Palmquist, Reiber and Simspon. Head coach Steve Pikiell continues to diversify his lineup and with good faith, seems to be working out in Rutgers’ favor. Having a bench at this point of the season is crucial to the growth of the Scarlet Knights as a whole, especially missing Mag. The Nebraska head coach speaks on the importance of having to rotate spots and diversify the lineup when key players like Rutgers #3 out due to injury. 

 Once the score reaches 21-20 in Rutgers favor, there was a scoring drought that lasted until McConnell stepped back on the court and within seconds he hit a two to get the energy back on track, but somehow momentum shifts and Nebraska scores seven points in a row.

The Scarlet Knights take a break and it does them well; Omoruyi shoots a three and Cam takes his lead and follows it up to grab another few points to not only close the gap further, but to earn a lead again. Both teams were stirring for new opportunities and looking for ways to establish dominance, but going into the half, Nebraska seemed to do everything a little better than the Scarlet Knights; Cornhuskers led with a five point lead, 40-35… the defensive magic normally found on the Scarlet Knights’ end of the ball is not serving them well this time. 

Nebraska came out of halftime with an extensive warm up that included passing, blocking, and shooting in various parts of the court to fine tune potential and foreseeable problems before the mistakes arise. 

Rutgers uses a brilliant mix of defense and offense to capitalize on the many turnovers by Nebraska, turning them into countless shooting opportunities for the Scarlet Knights. Havoc arises as soon as the good plays still were not quite adding up to points on the board, but captain and veteran, McConnell sees this part of the game as an opportunity to display leadership and take ahold of his team in an aggressive and intentional manner. He glides across the court, crosses over twice, adding a fade and grabbing a three-pointer. This inspired young up and comer, Simpson as he so shortly afterwards snags a bucket for the likeness of Rutgers fanbase who begin to get wilder by the second… and paused seconds. 

Team work appeared out of thin air it seemed and suddenly Rutgers synergy is back without the newfound confusion that was clearly coached out of them in their last huddle session. Hyatt finally returned with eleven minutes left in the game, but hops in at nearly a ten point deficit. He answers with a three quickly with efforts that are combatted as soon as he turns around. 

Nebraska came with an “every rebound is mine” mentality and a clear mission to fight for each other by hustling and diving as well as channeling confidence and timing so that decision making came natural in crucial moments. Rutgers was leaving gaping holes throughout transitioning from one end of the court to the next, opening up endless chances for Nebraska to feel comfortable enough to pull out crafty shots.

Rutgers is down by ten points at 62-72 with five minutes remaining on the clock. Time was ticking and not much change was occurring. The Scarlet Knights were not only slipping further and further behind the Cornhuskers, but they are making errors that simply occur during pressure cookers of games like this one.

At 30 seconds left, the crowds biggest concerns were whether or not Rutgers would allow Nebraska to put 80 points on the board and if this was a result of a choke or just play that does not equate to tournament talent play. Ten point hole was the demise of the Scarlet Knights tonight and will stain their big strides this season.

The Scarlet Knights gave up over 50%.. Makes the spectators sit and ponder when the last time this type of poor point play has actually been front and center, willing many different speculations as to why. McConnell shakes his head in disbelief.. “this is not Rutgers, this isn’t Rutgers basketball”. 

Pikiell takes the fall and claims the loss is on his shoulders because of the poor defense that was on display tonight. “We’ve been a pressing team all season and I thought it wasn't our press that hurt us but every time we made a mistake, they made it tough on us and if the mistake was on defense, Nebraska made us pay..”

Support your Scarlet Knights at the next game on Big Ten Plus for their away game against Wisconsin, February 18, 12 P.M.