Ten days ago, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights faced Maryland and secured their first road win this season with a 70-59 win. Unfortunately, this time around, Rutgers suffered a devastating home loss 68-60 to the revenge-seeking Terrapins on Tuesday night at Jersey Mike's Arena.
In the first 15 seconds, Clifford Omoruyi slammed home his first dunk of the night to send the crowd into a frenzy. Geo Baker followed up with a three-pointer to continue the quick start as Ron Harper Jr. added a layup. Interestingly enough, Maryland answered Rutgers' buckets keeping a close score for many minutes.
Incredibly early in the game, Paul Mulcahy proved to all watching just how personal the game was as he ruthlessly jabbed an elbow to the chin of a scrappy Terrapin to snag Rutgers first foul. This began a trend of fouls that eventually affected the game's pace and energy, so it was extra challenging for the Rutgers team to build the necessary momentum to take home the win.
Gaining ball possession seemed almost effortless. Rutgers was gliding beautifully across the court, giving themselves plenty of opportunities to make something happen on the glass. Unfortunately, shooting was painfully difficult for the Scarlet Knights as they shot just 34 percent from the field.
Geo was praised throughout the stands for his ability to execute when it comes to keeping the Scarlet Knights afloat during battle. He contributed to the scoreboard with 14 points going 4-for-6 from behind the 3-point line.
Harper also established his dominance with a dunk to close the gap to 38-23. With 3.2 on the clock, Caleb McConnell swooped in and hit another three to help inch the Scarlet Knights closer to a revivable point as they transitioned to the half.
The storyline was not different from their last encounter at Maryland, where Rutgers was down by 11 points at halftime. Harper emphasized his belief in his team's ability and heart when it comes to fighting back from a scary deficit.
A solid defense is the name of the Scarlet Knights' game. Historically, the team's struggle has been their inability to survive on the floor when forced to defend the free-throw line. Rutgers demonstrated this after they were in the trenches due to the overabundance of fouls.
Harper, the playmaker that he is, became increasingly more aggressive as the second half opened up and his teammates struggled to find game-changing looks. McConnell earned the drive of the game with his daunting efforts to get the ball outside the three-point line to the basket to make a layup happen and change the direction of the game.
With many attempts from the Scarlet Knights to come back and force their hand, there was not enough toughness compared to the untouchable backbone showcased by the Maryland Terrapins. Invariably, a solid defense is what Rutgers consistently resorts back to when there is poor consistency on offense, and their defense is unable to get enough stops. Maryland was shooting well and this needed to create a desire to press and make key decisions along the way to give themselves the chance to play better and gain confidence in each strong play.
Rutgers was down by an all-too-familiar, double-digit point deficit with a minute left on the clock. The boys gave the game their everything within the last 60 seconds of desperation, but sadly the game came to a close with a seven-point loss.
Rutgers only had a lead for 2:49 minutes compared to Maryland's 36:30. It was incredibly hard to compete well against the Terrapins when the Scarlet Knights could not compare to the fire, leadership, and determination that Maryland mustered up and brought to the floor last night.
Rutgers head coach Steve Pikiell expressed his post-game thoughts about why things did not go the way of the Scarlet Knights.
"Every time I got a rebound update, we were minus twelve, minus eight.. and that's not a recipe in a game like this. They got too many second shots," said Pikiell.
Next Up For Rutgers
The Scarlet Knights travel to Nebraska to face the Cornhuskers on Saturday, January 29 at 6:30 pm (EST). Tune in to support your Scarlet Knights on BTN.