Rutgers' all around performance crucial to win over Miami
The Rutgers men’s basketball team picked up its biggest road win under head coach Steve Pikiell Wednesday night, as the Scarlet Knights (5-1) defeated Miami on the road in a real nail biter.
Rutgers pulled off the upset in large part due to its defensive efforts on what was a poor shooting night on the offense. The Knights shot 41 percent from the field and just 6-24 from 3 (25 percent), but managed to keep the Hurricanes (5-2) at just 34 percent shooting to hand them their first home loss of the year.
Despite losing the turnover battle 14-13, Rutgers out blocked Miami 8-5 and stole the ball another eight times, as well. The Knights won the battle on the defensive boards but couldn’t keep the Hurricanes off the glass for offensive rebounds, which led to a number of second chance points.
The big win down South will be huge for Rutgers coming into the weekend, as it gets set to host No. 9 Michigan State at a sold out Rutgers Athletic Center (RAC) on Friday night.
Here are four takeaways from the biggest road win of the Pikiell era on the Banks:
Length in numbers
From the start of the season, it was clear that the big bodies on hand for the team would be a key to its success throughout the year, and last night was the first real example of it. Both graduate student center Shaquille Doorson (7 feet) and sophomore guard Geo Baker (6 feet 4 inches) had crucial blocks in the final 20 seconds of the game during Miami’s final possession, with Baker’s block with 6 seconds to play all but sealing the win. As mentioned earlier, the Knights blocked the Hurricanes eight times, with all the starters blocking at least one shot. Doorson also led the way for the team in rebounds with 10. As the Big Ten schedule comes closer and more NBA-caliber, big-bodied players come to the RAC, the team’s length will need to be utilized in every way possible to try gaining an advantage wherever it can.
Sixth man emerges
It wasn’t his best game this season, but freshman forward Ron Harper Jr. continues to separate himself from the rest of the bench players as the designated sixth man. Harper finished the game with 6 points, four rebounds (two offensive) and an assist after checking in and also picked up the lone bench block. He struggled from 3-point range, missing all three of his attempts, but went 3-4 from inside the arc. Harper has been a spark off the bench for Rutgers overall this year, so far, and averages more than 20 minutes of play per game.
Sophomore guard Peter Kiss, junior forwards Eugene Omoruyi and Issa Thiam all had solid overall performances last night for the Knights at Watsco Center. Both Kiss and Omoruyi scored in double figures, with Kiss dropping 11 points and Omoruyi adding another 12 — both shot an identical 33 percent from 3. Kiss rounded out his stat sheet with three rebounds, three steals and a block, while Omoruyi touched base on every stat he could, grabbing four rebounds (one offensive), dishing out an assist, stealing the ball once and blocking a shot, as well. As for Thiam, he struggled shooting from the field (2-7, 1-5 from 3), but played a key role just about everywhere else. The Senegal native has seven rebounds, two steals, two blocks and an assist in the game, but most importantly, he connected on both of his free throws in the final minute of play to widen Rutgers’ lead to 3-points.
Baker continues to make his case for being the leader of the Knights with his play this season. He was seemingly all over the court, scoring 16 points, assisting on six more baskets and grabbing seven rebounds to go with his two blocks. Baker has immensely improved upon his shooting this season, with his shot percentage up to 49 percent from 38 in his freshman campaign. This increase has shown on the scoreboard as well, as Baker leads the Knights in scoring with 15.3 points per game — up from 10.8 last year. He’s also distributed the ball at an impressive clip to start the season, averaging 5.1 a game. Baker and his squad will look to take this momentum-shifting win into Friday’s Big Ten opener against the Spartans.