August 22, 2019 | 89° F

Rutgers vs. Nebraska: Three observations from 67-55 loss

Knights offensive struggles continue

Photo by Declan Intindola |

The Rutgers men's basketball team ran into a red-hot Nebraska team on Saturday evening, becoming yet another victim of the Huskers.

The Scarlet Knights (12-15, 2-12) dug themselves into an early 20-4 hole and could never quite get out of it, ultimately falling to Nebrsaska (19-8, 10-4) by a score of 67-55.

Here are three observations from the team's seventh consecutive loss.

A Surprise Return

Much to the surprise of everyone, both senior guard Mike Williams and sophomore forward Eugene Omoruyi returned to the floor for Rutgers, despite suffering serious looking injuries earlier in the year.

Williams suffered an ankle injury in practice on Jan. 13, while Omoruyi suffered a gruesome knee injury on Jan. 30 against Illinois, where his knee cap had to be put back into place. 

The initial feeling was that Williams was likely out for the season but could return if the team made a run in the Big Ten Tournament. When Omoruyi went down, it didn't seem like there was any way he would able to play again this season, but 11 days later, he took the floor and looked like the same player he was before the injury.

He finished with 19 minutes and had 11 points and nine rebounds (five offensive), while Williams played 16 minutes and contributed 2 points and a block.

Having those two back should help the Knights be more competitive in their last four games of the season and give the team a chance to pull off an upset in the Big Ten Tournament.

Offensive Struggles Continue

Rutgers' defense keeps it in games, but it is so inept on offense that it can never capitalize on strong defensive efforts. The team was incredibly inefficient putting the ball in the basket, shooting 34.8 percent from the field and 14.3 percent from deep. No one on the team stood out with a strong performance, as it was a consistently poor effort all around.

While the 10 turnovers are under the Knights' season average of 12 per game, their six assists are troublesome. As of late, Rutgers has turned the ball over at a much higher rate than it has dished out assists.

Fifth-year senior forward Deshawn Freeman has been forcing everything on offense, with his selfish play limiting the team's ability to score points. He often puts up terrible shots whenever he gets near the rim and never really looks to set up his teammates.

Junior guard Corey Sanders plays hero ball way too often and forces terrible mid-range jump shots and 3-pointers. He missed all five of his attempts from deep against the Huskers and is 21.6 percent on the year. Plain and simple, he should not be taking five 3-pointers in a single game.

Can the Knights avoid another last place finish in the Big Ten?

Rutgers has finished in dead last in each of their first three years in the Big Ten and were picked to finish last once again this season. With the Knights loss on Saturday, they remain in a last-place tie with Illinois, although the Fighting Illini beat them by 31 points the first time the two teams met. 

Rutgers plays Illinois again in the season finale at the Rutgers Athletic Center (RAC) on Feb. 25, a game that could ultimately decide who finishes in last.

On the bright side for the Knights, with Williams and Omoruyi back from injury, they are at full strength heading into the final four regular season games.

Rutgers hosts Northwestern and Illinois at the RAC, two very beatable teams, especially when the Knights are healthy. While the difference between finishing 13th or 14th in the conference is essentially meaningless, not finishing in last shows tangible progress for head coach Steve Pikiell and could give the team a more favorable matchup in the Big Ten Tournament.

For updates on the Rutgers men's basketball team, follow @GriffinWhitmer and @TargumSports on Twitter.

Griffin Whitmer

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