On Thursday night, Rutgers (3-0) picked up their first road win since December 2014, beating DePaul (1-1) by a score of 66-59.
Say what you will about DePaul, but road trips have not been kind to the Scarlet Knights in recent years, which means any kind of road win is a good one. And the way we won, by overwhelming the Blue Demons for the majority of the game (particularly in the second half, when the lead ballooned to 22 points), shows great strides are being made in the fundamental aspects of the game.
Here are the most important takeaways:
- Second Half Adjustments – For the third game in a row, Rutgers came out flying in the second half. This was a 7-point game at the break, and by the 11:13 mark the lead was up to 22. I love the way Pike rotates his players. They go hard for a few minutes, then get a breather, then go hard again. The short spurts are paying dividends over the course of a long game, as Rutgers consistently seems like the fresher team in the second half. Let’s face it…if Eli Cain doesn’t get hot for DePaul with about 5 minutes left, this is another 20-point win for RU.
- Huge rebounding margin…again – This is becoming a theme. Rutgers was completely dominant on the glass again in this one, to the tune of a 46-27 rebounding advantage (including 18-10 on the offensive glass). In the first half, it was even more lopsided, with RU holding a 28-8 advantage at the break. Before this season, when was the last time you saw Rutgers at +20 on the boards in one half? Mike Williams and Deshawn Freeman led the way with 9 rebounds apiece, and Jonathan Laurent chipped in 6 more.
- Free Throw shooting – I’ll be honest…this has probably been my biggest complaint about Rutgers basketball over the years. Too many times, I’ve watched winnable games be thrown away because we couldn’t make uncontested shots from the foul line. That appears to be a thing of the past. Against DePaul, we hit 23-29 FTs (79%), including 13-14 in the first half. Pleasant surprise.
- Mike Williams continues to impress – When we needed a spark off the bench, Mike Williams came through. I thought he was the player of the game, once again providing energy and intensity when he entered. He finished with 14 points and 9 rebounds, and at times carried us on both ends of the floor. He also seems to be developing as a leader right in front of our eyes. Really impressive performance overall.