Individually, C.J. Gettys produced a respectable outing in the post Saturday for Rutgers with 14 points and eight rebounds.
The same could not be said for the Scarlet Knights collectively in their 72-63 loss to Minnesota at the RAC, where the Golden Gophers (18-7, 6-6) wiped the glass clean with 40 rebounds and posted 44 points in the paint.
With a Tuesday tipoff at No. 16 Purdue on deck, the level of difficulty only increases for Rutgers (13-13, 2-11).
The Boilermakers (20-5, 9-3) lead the Big Ten in rebounding margin and feature one of the top post players in the country with 6-foot-9, 250-pound forward Caleb Swanigan.
“Everybody’s an elite player (in the Big Ten),” Gettys said. “You can’t take any play off. Like coach (Steve Pikiell) said, we scout a play a hundred times throughout practice and if you’re late one second, it’s a layup. Early a second, it’s a charge. So, it’s a really tough, grind-it-out league.”
While Rutgers boasts size with seven-footers Gettys and Shaquille Doorson to lead the way among its big men, a smaller Minnesota team successfully managed to offset that strength.
“Their guards were getting penetration,” Gettys said. “They were dishing it off for the bigs, they were getting shots up on the rim. Our bigs had to step up and help there. Their bigs were able to rebound.
“When you’ve got to have guys track down from the guard position, rebound as well. But were kind of limited with size (Saturday). Candido (Sa) didn’t play. That’s coach’s decision, obviously. Deshawn [Freeman] was in and out of the game … but we’ve just got to continue to fight.”
Pikiell is aware of the task Purdue presents, led by Swanigan’s double-double averages of 19 points and 12.8 rebounds per game.
“It doesn’t get any easier,” Pikiell said. “We’re off to Purdue next. Obviously, everybody knows how good Purdue is. But we’re going to go out there and fight, too. I’m proud of the team’s development in that way, and we’ve gotten better. We have gotten better. I know what our record is and all that playing better teams obviously and we’re getting better. We’re in every game.”
The fight from Rutgers was there in its late second-half comeback attempt against Minnesota. Since the 83-63 home loss to Iowa, Rutgers responded with its first Big Ten road win at Penn State and nearly another one at Ohio State.
Gettys understands the importance of closing with five games left in the regular season.
“Obviously, it’s a big rebound from a 20-point loss, but you’ve got to be able to win on this side of things and unfortunately, we haven’t done that,” he said. “We haven’t closed out games. I think that’s what we need to work on.”