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Rutgers Falls 71-53 on the Road to Notre Dame: A Fan’s Reaction
Wednesday, February 15 - If looks could kill, the Scarlet Knights would be clinging to life support right about now. The confusion, frustration, and sheer bewilderment on coach Mike Rice's face told the story tonight for Rutgers, who fell on the road to Notre Dame, 71-53. Rutgers showed some promise early on after closing an 11 point gap to 5 at the break, but ultimately had no answer for Fighting Irish center Jack Cooley (22 points, 18 rebounds).
At least you can't say that Rutgers isn't playing consistent basketball. They consistently make the same mistakes each and every game. In what has become an alarming trend, Rutgers watched their opponent shoot 22 more free throws than them, a difference just slightly higher than Notre Dame's margin of victory.
Their lack of any inside game is causing a multitude of problems for Rutgers as well. Sophomore Gil Biruta gives up at least a handful of points each game by missing shots from point-blank range, and junior Austin Johnson has recorded more personal fouls than points in three out of his last four games. Since returning from an injury that kept him out of the early season, highly touted freshman Kadeem Jack has yet to show his true colors (we hope), and looks seriously lost on the court. He simply does not appear ready, mentally or physically, to battle with the bigs in the Big East.
Rutgers guard Eli Carter had 10 points, but hit only one shot from beyond the arc. At this point, it's apparent that Rutgers just does not have enough combined offense to beat anybody when Carter's scoring is that limited. Carter and fellow freshman guard Myles Mack have become Rutgers' two most consistent offensive threats this season, but still tend to look sloppy in transition and have a hard time penetrating when the outside shots aren't falling.
In the opening half, Dane Miller played the kind of aggressive basketball that Rutgers' fans love to see from him, and had 10 points, 10 rebounds at the break. Unfortunately for the Scarlet Knights, he only added 1 point and 2 boards to those totals in the second half of play. The frustrating thing about watching Dane Miller is that he can look like a one-man highlight reel or a complete stranger to the game on any given night (or even any given half). On a play that epitomized Rutgers' night, Miller foolishly got whistled for a charge during a 3-on-2 fast break.
For my money, Mike Poole has become Rutgers' most consistent threat off the bench. Poole averaged 12 points per game prior to tonight's contest, and finished with 9 against Notre Dame, along with a steal and a pair of blocks. Not only does he have the best short-range jumper on the team, but he's also a legitimate threat from behind the arc and a smart defensive player. In terms of ball security, I always feel pretty confident with the ball in Poole's hands, which I hesitate to say for too many players on this Rutgers team.
Unfortunately Rutgers fans, we may be in for another long one this weekend, when Mike Rice's Scarlet Knights take on #2 Syracuse at the RAC. 11 of Rutgers' 12 wins this season have come at home, including victories over Florida and Connecticut, two teams who were ranked at the time. To have any chance of knocking off a third, Rutgers needs to control the fouls and keep the notoriously rowdy 'Cuse crowd at bay by establishing an early tempo. Tip-off is set for 1:00 p.m.
Joe is a graduate of Rutgers University, and longtime fan of Scarlet Knights athletics.
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