Rutgers vs. No. 3 Michigan State: Four Observations
There will likely not be a tougher task at the Rutgers Athletic Center (RAC) than No. 3 Michigan State was on Tuesday night, and while the Rutgers men's basketball team put forth a gritty effort against the Spartans, the Scarlet Knights' upset bid fell short as they lost by a score of 62-52.
Michigan State (8-1, 2-0) was led by its star player in sophomore forward Miles Bridges, who had 21 points. Although Rutgers (6-3, 0-2) was able to stick around for much of the game, every time the Knights got close, Bridges seemed to make a big shot to keep his team ahead.
Geo Baker is the present and the future
The true freshman stepped up on the big stage after a poor performance last week against Florida State. With junior guard Corey Sanders ineffective shooting the ball, Baker stepped up as an offensive catalyst and single-handedly kept Rutgers in the game during the second half. He showed a tremendous ability to create space with his length and was clinical from mid-range. Baker has been inconsistent this season, but when he plays like he did against Michigan State, he makes the 63 power-five schools that didn't give him an offer look bad.
The veterans need to play better in big games
The "veterans" consist of Sanders, senior guard Mike Williams and senior forward Deshawn Freeman. It was the worst offensive output of the season for that group and the three leaders of the team were holding it back at times. They combined for 27 points on an atrocious 7-of-32 shooting mark. You can't knock the effort of the two captains, Williams and Freeman, but the shot-making simply wasn't there for most of the night.
Steve Pikiell had the RAC jumping and the students were awesome
Exactly a week after a tremendous atmosphere led to a near-upset against Florida State, the Scarlet Knight faithful were back at it again. While there were still 2,000 empty seats — the announced attendance being 6,020 — the student section was filled up completely and definitely made an impact on the game. This team clearly plays its best basketball when the crowd is behind it, and with atmospheres like Tuesday night's, it is only a matter of time before Rutgers pulls a big-time upset at home.
A decent offense will go a long way for the Knights
To be a successful Big Ten team, Rutgers does not need to be an offensive juggernaut and put up more than 85 points a game. Its defense is good enough that the team just needs an average offense to be very good overall. When the Knights shoot 25.8 percent from the field like they did against the Spartans, they will likely not win very many games. Granted, Michigan State is one of the best defensive teams in the country, but Rutgers has been bad on offense all season and that is something that needs to change going forward. While Baker and sophomore forward Eugene Omoruyi have shown tremendous flashes early on, the Knights should not be leaning on them to be the top scorers. There needs to be a more balanced effort on that side of the ball.