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ALONG CAME ... RUTGERS

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Can Iowa get back to .500 in conference play?

NCAA Basketball: Iowa at Nebraska Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

Iowa returns to the friendly confines Carver-Hawkeye Arena Sunday afternoon when a hapless Rutgers squad visits Iowa City in search of its first Big Ten win on the season after going 12-2 in its non-conference schedule.

The Scarlet Knights haven’t enjoyed any sort of success early on in its Big Ten slate, dropping games to Wisconsin, Penn State and Michigan State by an average margin of 17 points. Just a reminder, Penn State is still really bad at basketball.

Iowa, as I’m sure you all know, is coming off a gutpunch double-overtime loss to Nebraska. Man. Iowa had that one in the bag but couldn’t get the job done.

Damn.

Anyway, let’s preview this matchup of historic Big Ten rivals!

Get to know the Knights

Rutgers is led by guard Nigel Johnson, who’s scoring 12 a game for the Scarlet. After Johnson there’s 6-7 junior forward Deshawn Freeman who’s averaging 11 points and 8 boards. After that, that’s kind of it! 6-2 guard Mike Williams is also averaging 11 a game, and he’s Rutgers best 3-point threat, making 38 percent of his long balls.

Other players to keep an eye on include 6-2 sophomore guard Corey Sanders, who’s the only other player scoring double-digits for Rutgers. He dropped a season-high 22 against Michigan State earlier in the week, and is a streaky scoring threat for Rutgers.

Rutgers is one of the worst scoring teams around, clocking in at No. 211 in KenPom’s Adjusted Offense ratings. It’s much better on the defensive side of the ball, where it lands at No. 87. Iowa, on the other hand, ranks No. 48 on adjusted offense, but unsurprisingly is low on the defensive marks, getting the No. 135 ranking.

Iowa will win if ...

The Hawkeyes just need to play their game and let Peter Jok be Peter Jok. I don’t suspect this one will come down to any late-game timeout situations, and God help us if it does. Iowa matches up pretty well size-wise with Rutgers, and the Nebraska and Michigan games definitely showed us that Iowa can compete with the middle tier of the Big Ten, let alone the cellar of the conference.

I think there were a lot more things to like than not like in our performance against Nebraska, and if nothing else could maybe even be a learning experience I don’t know. In any case, I think that was a good thing to have under our belts, and I expect Iowa to come out feisty in this one.

Prediction time

I see Iowa controlling this one from start to finish. I think Peter Jok and Jordan Bohannon drop dimes all over the court, while Tyler Cook re-asserts himself as a dominant force in the paint as part of Iowa’s offense. I hope to see some more Isiah Moss and Ahmad Wagner, but I think Jok just sort of scores at will here and this one is over early.

Iowa 92, Rutgers 71