Rutgers vs. Florida State: Four observations from the 78-73 loss
The Rutgers men's basketball team had its biggest game of the season on Tuesday night, as the Scarlet Knights hosted an undefeated Florida State in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
While Rutgers (6-1) was able to fight hard and keep the game close for a majority of regulation, the more-talented Seminoles (6-0) made more plays down the stretch to secure the 78-73 victory.
Here are four observations from the game.
It was the team's sloppiest game of the year
The Knights clearly struggled with the upgrade in talent with Florida State, as Rutgers had several bad turnovers in the first half and did not rebound the ball well. The Seminoles headed into the game as an average rebounding team but picked up six offensive rebounds in the first half, leading to second-chance points. In the second half, the Knights went on a key run to take a 45-42 lead, but captain and fifth-year senior forward Deshawn Freeman went down hard and Florida State hit a three-pointer against a four-man defense to take a 48-45 lead. After Freeman was out, the Seminoles hit another three and a layup to go up 53-45 and cap off an 11-0 run.
Eugene Omoruyi is a budding star
The sophomore forward out of Canada has shown flashes against lesser competition, but showed he was for real against Florida State, scoring a career-high 22 points on 9-11 shooting. He also had a strong game at the foul line, making 4-of-5 at the charity stripe. He provided great defense in the post and had several huge and-one plays that energized the crowd and kept his team in the game. He also showed great chemistry when they were in the game together, something that has been a rarity so far this year.
The RAC is as loud as fans want it to be
There were several moments in the game where it was nearly impossible to think because of how loud the Rutgers Athletic Center was. The student section was almost entirely filled up and provided much of the energy. There was almost nobody in the 300 level seating, which is both troubling and encouraging. It is troubling since this was Rutgers' biggest game of the season so far and Florida State is a big-name program that fans should have showed up in greater numbers for. On the other hand, the fact that the RAC was as loud as it was with so many empty seats goes to show how intimidating of an environment it can be when filled.
Both head coach Steve Pikiell and junior guard Corey Sanders praised the crowd, which was key in helping the team stay in the game for as long as it did.
“The RAC was awesome today. I want to thank our fans for coming out. The student section was great," Pikiell said after the game.
Sanders, who is in his third year on the Banks, noted that Tuesday night was a top-five environment in his career.
He also spoke about how having a crowd like Tuesday's helps the team step up its level of play against talented competition.
"You know when you get a stop or when you score that, the fans are gonna be in an uproar. That's a concept that we feed off of," he said. "I want to thank our crowd and our student section for coming out and being as loud as they can be."
The game was a valuable learning experience
The Knights have a blend of youth and experience, but this was the first time that this group of players really had to fight to win a game down the stretch, not to mention against a more talented team. Pikiell and the team will look back on sloppy offensive possessions and multiple breakdowns on defense that let the Seminoles put the game away late. While this was a game nobody expected Rutgers to win, it was one in which the team had opportunities to tie or take the lead late and could not convert.