Rutgers basketball falls at Iowa as defense gets shredded
Basketball is largely about matchups. Sometimes, that’s all it’s about.
Rutgers’ games against Iowa reinforce that theme, and Sunday brought more of the same. For the second time this season, the Hawkeyes carved up the Big Ten’s best defense, handing the Scarlet Knights a 93-82 loss in Iowa City.
Iowa shot 12-of-24 from 3-point range and the Scarlet Knights' offense didn't help matters by committing 18 turnovers. The Hawkeyes are the only team this season to score 75 or more points against Rutgers, and they've done it twice.
Rutgers (14-7 overall, 6-4 Big Ten) has dropped three straight to Iowa (13-8, 5-5) dating back to last March’s Big Ten Tournament.
Iowa now holds an 11-3 lead in the series, 10-3 since Rutgers joined the Big Ten. The Scarlet Knights’ lone win at Carver-Hawkeye Arena came in 2019, a big breakthrough for the program at the time.
When they met in Piscataway earlier this month, Iowa shot the lights out and won 76-65. That pattern repeated in the first half this time around as Iowa shot 8-of-16 from deep to take a 45-34 lead into the locker room. That wasn’t all on Rutgers’ defense. The Scarlet Knights’ 13 first-half turnovers allowed the Hawkeyes to dictate their pace.
Senior guard Paul Mulcahy led Rutgers with 11 points and a career-high 13 assists, the most assists in a game by a Scarlet Knight since 1995 and tied for fourth in program annals. Brian Ellerbe set the record of 16 in 1984 against N.C. State.
Iowa welcomed the return of junior forward Patrick McCaffery, son of head coach Fran McCaffery, who sat out the past four weeks for mental-health purposes. When Iowa came to Piscataway, Rutgers’ players and coaches signed and delivered a well-wishes card for Patrick to his father. It was a touching gesture. Patrick received a huge ovation when he checked into Sunday’s game off the bench.
1. Give Iowa credit
The Hawkeyes have the personnel and basketball IQ to hit Rutgers’ defense where it hurts – spreading the floor and finding the open man when the Scarlet Knights swarm the ball. It’s not a blueprint many teams will be able to follow.
Broadly speaking, though, Rutgers is showing some vulnerability to the 3-pointer. It happened in last week's loss at Michigan State. And even after Tuesday's 20-point win over Penn State, Nittany Lions coach Micah Shrewsberry pointed out, correctly, that his squad bricked a fair amount of open looks.
Not sure what Rutgers could do differently against Iowa except task more minutes to a speedier perimeter defender like Derek Simpson or Aundre Hyatt.
2. Dean Reiber contributes
There’s a reason why Rutgers plays a nine-man rotation. You need all nine over the course of a long season. The ninth guy, junior forward/center Dean Reiber, notched eight points and three boards Sunday after entering the day averaging just 1.5 points and 0.9 boards.
Reiber has ability – he showed real promise as a sophomore who could stretch defenses and was vying for major minutes this offseason before a summertime foot injury set him back. Upon returning, Reiber may have lost some confidence. It will be interesting to see if this effort helps restore that.
3. Fascinating stretch ahead
Rutgers hits the Big Ten halfway point at 6-4, which any fan would have signed for in the preseason. Next is a visit by lowly Minnesota (7-13, 1-9) Wednesday before a big-stage matchup Saturday against Michigan State (14-8, 6-5) at Madison Square Garden. The latter is a Rutgers’ home game as part of the Big Ten’s continuing “Super Saturday” series – an effort to showcase the league at the World’s Most Famous Arena. This will mark the Scarlet Knights’ third Super Saturday appearance, and the second time it counted as a home contest.
The meeting with Sparty tips off Rutgers’ toughest three-game spree of the season, with trips to Indiana and Illinois following. If the Scarlet Knights are going to make a push for a “protected” seed in the NCAA Tournament – the top four seeds in each region get geographical preference the first weekend (in Rutgers’ case, that would probably mean Albany, N.Y.) – that stretch represents the best opportunity to do it.
From Steve Pikiell’s postgame press conference:
General thoughts: “Iowa played great today. Patrick McCaffery, happy that he got back playing. Always want your players to be healthy and happy...You can’t turn the ball over 18 times against a team like that, that can score like that, and they really got it going.”
On the matchup vs. Iowa: “They score against everybody…when you turn the ball over the way we did, that’s not going to help your mission…You’ve got to be on top of your game defensively. We just didn’t have it there.”
On where his team stands midway through the Big Ten slate: “We’re good. We’re good. You want to win every game. This league isn’t built that way.”
Jerry Carino has covered the New Jersey sports scene since 1996 and the college basketball beat since 2003. He is an Associated Press Top 25 voter. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared on Asbury Park Press: Rutgers basketball falls at Iowa as defense gets shredded