Rutgers fell to Iowa in Piscataway on Saturday, 77-75. The loss dropped the Scarlet Knights one spot to 15 in the national rankings, with the Hawkeyes leaping five spots to #5. I truly think both of these teams will be in competition for the conference title at the end of the season. Despite the tough loss, there were some positives for Rutgers:
With freshman starting center Cliff Omoruyi still injured, Rutgers leaned heavily on Johnson to play the bulk of the minutes. Johnson fouling out with about ten minutes to go at Ohio State completely changed the game. Were there a few BS calls? Absolutely.
But regardless, Rutgers needs Johnson on the court. He was up to that task Saturday, playing 29 minutes in a 13 point, 10 rebound effort. I get that Luka Garza dominated to end the game, but he’s the best player in the conference. It happens. Johnson helped neutralize him for most of the game, and gave Rutgers a great chance to win.
Although Omoruyi was still injured, the Scarlet Knights got a few players back on Saturday. Ron Harper jr. returned after missing the Purdue game with an ankle injury. While Harper didn’t look 100%, having him back was still a huge boost. He also did this, which was awesome:
Junior guard Caleb McConnell also returned Saturday. McConnell was originally going to redshirt this season, but had been practicing lately and finally suited up vs. Iowa. While McConnell didn’t score and went 0-5 from the field, he’s ultimately a guy that can make a major impact off the bench for the Scarlet Knights, as he has in the past.
At the end of the day, free throws cost Rutgers this game. I get that’s a cliche, but in this case it’s the truth. Rutgers went just 4-12 from the line while Iowa made 18 of 23.
Rutgers’ 60.54% from the charity stripe ranks 321st out of 336 Division 1 teams. It’s been a legitimate concern for years, and in my mind it’s the only thing that could hold this team back come March.