Four observations: Rutgers' offensive struggles continue against Minnesota
The Rutgers men's basketball team opened up Big Ten play on Sunday night on the road against No. 12 Minnesota — about as difficult as things get as far as conference play goes. While no one expected the Scarlet Knights (6-2, 0-1) to go into Minneapolis and escape with a victory, the way in which Rutgers lost was incredibly frustrating. The Golden Gophers (8-1, 1-0) dominated the visitors in the second half en route to a convincing 89-67 win.
The Knights struggled mightily on offense, from shooting to taking care of the basketball. Here is more on that and four observations from the game.
Rutgers struggled big-time in its first road game
Taking into account a trip to East Lansing to face No. 3 Michigan State, Sunday night's game was arguably the second-toughest game on the Knights' schedule. Minnesota was clearly a much better team and way more athletic. Despite that, Rutgers was able to hang tough for the most part and took a while to be put away. Fifth-year senior forward and captain Deshawn Freeman was the hardest-working player for either team on the court and notched his third straight double-double this season, against one of the top front courts in the Big Ten in Reggie Lynch and Jordan Murphy. It took the Gophers until late in the second half to pull away and if the Knights could have made a few more shots early on, the game would've been a lot closer. But Minnesota proved why many consider it the second-best team in the conference behind the Spartans, as the way it put away Rutgers in the second half was nothing short of dominant.
The offense was bad but can be fixed
The Knights were never expected to be an offensive juggernaut, but Sunday's performance was really poor. Rutgers shot 32.4 percent from the field and continued to struggle from three-point range, going 5-of-18 from deep. Additionally, the Knights committed way too many unforced turnovers, killing any momentum it hoped to have to cut down on the Gophers' lead. While junior guard Corey Sanders had five assists, his four turnovers and technical foul late in the second half set the team back. And while the turnovers were problematic, the biggest issue was that Rutgers simply could not put the ball in the basket. The shots weren't falling, but if the Knights can just get a few more shots to go in early in games, it can be much more competitive in the Big Ten.
Mamadou Doucoure flashed potential
The true freshman center and four-star recruit flashed some of his potential against Minnesota, finishing with 13 points in his Big Ten debut. He showed a smooth mid-range jump shot and was effective (3-4) from the free throw line. He was also very effective on the glass, pulling down nine boards against the Gophers, who are the second-best rebounding team in the conference behind Rutgers. He struggled early in the season with foul trouble and establishing offensive rhythm but showed why he was a such a valued recruit. Doucoure also re-classified and should still be a senior in high school, so his strong play is a real testament to how quickly he has acclimated to the speed of both Division I and Big Ten basketball.
The Knights are still a very strong rebounding team
In the long run, Rutgers was dominated, and the scoreline reflected that. But early in the game, the Knights were working so much harder than Minnesota and had a massive rebounding advantage. The Gophers wound up with a 46-43 advantage in the game, but Rutgers held a 17-11 advantage in offensive rebounds, an area that Rutgers continues to excel at. This was a matchup of the two best rebounding teams in the Big Ten, and the Knights definitely put forth a respectable performance.