RU fails to control star in final minutes
During its current six-game losing streak, the Rutgers men’s basketball team has fallen prey to a repeating theme.
While the Scarlet Knights were able to keep pace with many of the tough opponents they faced, the latter stages of nearly each game saw the emergence of the foe’s star player, or in some cases players.
Whether it was Notre Dame’s Jack Cooley, St. John’s D’Angelo Harrison and JaKarr Sampson, Connecticut’s Ryan Boatright and Shabazz Napier, Cincinnati’s Sean Kilpatrick or Lousiville’s Russ Smith, each team had a player to step up when they needed him.
Rutgers’ 69-63 loss to Georgetown was no different.
After allowing the Knights to take a small lead, the Hoyas turned to their best player in forward Otto Porter.
His 15 second-half points surprised everyone in the Louis Brown Athletic Center, except Georgetown head coach John Thompson III.
“He made a couple plays and he came through and got two big rebounds when we needed him, but that’s what he does,” Thompson said. “He’s one of the best players in the country, and the best players in the country come through when it’s winning time.”
In a teleconference Thursday, head coach Mike Rice called Porter one of the best potential lottery picks he had seen on tape.
Porter backed up Rice’s words, scoring 10 of the Hoyas’ final 12 points to go with 14 rebounds. He finished with 19 points.
Even Rutgers’ knowledge of the Georgetown scheme could not stop Porter.
Associate head coach David Cox spent three seasons as an assistant on Thompson’s staff and knows the system well.
Rice said Cox even called the play the Hoyas were going to run for Porter in the game’s closing minutes.
Cox was correct, but even that was not enough, as Porter sank a layup and drew a foul on the play.
“They out-executed us right there, and they out-toughed us,” Rice said of the play.
That can be said of Porter throughout the second half.
Early on the Knights held Porter at bay, limiting him to only five first-half points.
But as all top players do, he found a way to produce aside from scoring.
Porter pulled down eight of his 14 rebounds before the halftime break. He also dished out three assists while turning the ball over only once.
“He is so disciplined and patient in his offense,” Rice said. “He just allows his team and the offense to come to him.”
While not at a size disadvantage, the Knights’ forwards found it difficult to score in the paint.
Only eight of Rutgers’ 63 points came from close range, and Rice said the team missed a total of 21 shots from the perimeter.
“I thought offensively we were attacking and efficient enough to stay with them,” Rice said. “You have to finish your layups and finish the opportunities.”
Junior forward Wally Judge finished with three points, all of which came from the free throw line.
Senior forward Austin Johnson led all Rutgers forwards with eight points.
But perhaps the brightest spot for the Knights’ frontcourt was sophomore Derrick Randall, who played only five minutes, but showed the aggression Rice and the rest of the team hoped he could.
“Derrick is a horse,” Johnson said. “Whenever he gets in there, if there’s a ball in his area, he usually comes up with it.”
In his limited minutes, Randall pulled down three rebounds, all of which he had to fight for.
But he also had the same shooting bug that plagued his position-mates, missing both of his shots.
For updates on the Rutgers men’s basketball team, follow Joey Gregory on Twitter @JGregoryTargum.