Duo clocks weak offensive performance
HARTFORD, Conn. — For the second consecutive game, sophomore guard Eli Carter did not look like the player Rutgers men’s basketball fans expect to take the court, but it was not because for lack of effort.
He took 14 shots, five of which went in, ending with 13 points, in yesterday’s 66-54 loss to Connecticut.
And most of the shots he did make can be awarded to defensive indifference in the closing minutes, when the game was out of reach.
Even a fast break layup fell to the ground without touching net — accurately summing up Carter’s last two games.
“I don’t worry about Eli, he just has to play better,” said head coach Mike Rice. “Eli is good. I’m not going to get down on any of my players. I’ve seen Eli play tremendous this year for me. He … is pressing right now. He just had to breathe and let it come.”
Even his normally steady classmate and fellow guard Myles Mack did not put up the numbers his team is used to.
Both of their point totals were limited by their lack of appearances on the free throw line.
Carter hit his only two free throws while UConn (13-5, 3-3) did not send Mack to the line at all.
Luckily for the Scarlet Knights (12-7, 3-5) their third sophomore guard, Jerome Seagears, decided to have his best game of the season, as he kept them in the game.
The Silver Spring, Md., native finished the game with a career-high 21 points on 8-for-15 shooting. He went 4-for-7 from beyond the arc.
“Jerome played excellent tonight,” said senior forward Austin Johnson. “I haven’t seen him that aggressive this season. At least we got one good thing out of this game, to see that we got Jerome back.”
It only took Seagears one half of play to match his season high in points, and he did not stop there.
But even Seagears’ best game of the season was not enough to counter the Knights’ mistakes and walk away with the win.
Rutgers entered the game averaging 14.3 turnovers per contest. That number rose thanks to yesterday’s contest.
The Knights committed 16 total turnovers, a majority of them committed by Carter and Mack. They finished with five and three, respectively, while combining for only seven assists.
“Even though we want to speed the pace [of the game] up, the game can’t be fast to us,” Rice said. “We’re playing fast.”
That helped contribute not only to the 16 total turnovers, but also to the limited number of points the Knights generated off of the giveaways it caused — nine points off of 11 UConn turnovers.
The UConn offense showed up to the XL Center as advertised. Thanks mostly to its lack of size, it relied heavily on its talented backcourt.
Also to nobody’s surprise, junior Shabazz Napier — the team’s top scorer — headlined the group finishing the game with 19 points.
Napier was not the only guard to leave his mark on the game. The Huskies’ second leading scorer, sophomore Ryan Boatright ended with 15 points.
But their contribution extended beyond the scoring column.
Napier and Boatright combined for nine assists and chipped in eight rebounds.
Seagears was not the only player to take a step up on the stat sheet in yesterday’s game.
Sophomore forward Kadeem Jack had one of his most productive games of the season.
In a season-high 32 minutes, Jack totaled eight points and nine rebounds.
It marked the only game this season in which he reached at least eight in both categories.
For updates on the Rutgers men’s basketball team, follow Joey Gregory on Twitter @JGregoryTargum.