Players only meeting changing Rutgers outlook on season
The Rutgers men’s basketball team picked up another Big Ten win this weekend, defeating Penn State on the road in the Bryce Jordan Center for the second time in three visits to University Park, Pa.
The Scarlet Knights (10-9, 3-6) used a 4-point half time lead and a 9-12 showing at the free throw line in the final minutes to pull off their second straight conference win — marking the first time they’ve done so in consecutive regular season games.
The Big Ten win over the Nittany Lions (7-13, 0-9) already gives Rutgers its same win total in the conference with 11 games remaining on the schedule. Being as high as it is at this point of the season can potentially have big implications.
Here are four takeaways from last Saturday’s win at Penn State:
Last week’s win over the Cornhuskers (13-7, 3-6) was bigger than the average fan might realize, and picking up the first road conference win since 2017 — ironically also against the Lions — shows both how far the program has come and how much these players want to win.
An even greater foundation was set into place, as well with the win — the Knights are now in a four-way tie for the No. 9 seed for the Big Ten Tournament with Nebraska, Indiana (who they face tomorrow night) and Northwestern. Granted, the regular season records will still help determine the seeding, but the team seems to be moving in the right direction.
After losing three straight games by margins of 18 to Minnesota, 35 to Purdue and 8 to Northwestern, the season’s frustrations came to a head. After the loss to the Wildcats (12-8, 3-6) the team held a players only meeting led by junior forward Eugene Omoruyi and sophomore guard Geo Baker — arguably the two biggest leaders on the team. The duo stressed the need to change and make this a winning team, so ever since, it seems that the vision has been made clear and come to fruition.
Length in numbers
At 6-feet-4-inches, Baker is long for the point guard position and he has certainly used his height and length to his advantage. He has averaged approximately 1.6 steals per game this season, including 12 in the last five games and three in each of the past two wins. Seeing over his defenders has become an asset for Baker, as well.
He’s put up 20 points three times this season, counting Saturday’s performance at the Bryce Jordan Center. In a game that is seemingly looking for bigger players to be able to stay on the floor and be able to shoot, having a tall player like Baker at the No. 1 spot indicates that the sophomore student athlete may have a long future ahead of him.
Winning at the line
For the second straight game, Rutgers secured its win at the charity stripe. As noted earlier, the Knights went 9-12 from the free throw line down the stretch to pull out the road victory. Similar to the win over Nebraska last week, Omoruyi and Baker were sent to the line in crunch time, and they delivered.
As a team, Rutgers shot 71.4 percent from the line in the game. Not perfect, but good enough — especially late — to get the job done and set up an exciting game against the Hoosiers (12-8, 3-6) tomorrow night at the Rutgers Athletic Center (RAC).
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