Knights fail to convert free-throw opportunities
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Facing No. 7 Georgetown and the nation’s No. 10 scoring defense is tough enough as it is.
It is even more difficult when the Hoyas spend most of the game on the free throw line.
And it is near impossible to come out on top when the person who takes most of those free throws is player of the year candidate Otto Porter.
The Rutgers men’s basketball team received a firsthand look at this Saturday night, when an excessive free throw differential led to a 64-51 Scarlet Knights loss to the Hoyas.
The contest with Georgetown saw an inordinate amount of fouls called, even for the Knights’ standards.
Georgetown picked up a very uncharacteristic 21 fouls.
But Rutgers would not be outdone in one of the few categories it has been consistent in all season. It totaled 30 team fouls.
Both teams’ foul numbers were higher than they expected, but that can be attributed to the referees, who were consistent in the little amount of contact they allowed.
But the Knights do not concern themselves with that.
“That’s not my call,” said junior forward Wally Judge. “We can’t make the refs make a different decision. We have to play through it. It’s not what the refs call that balances out the game. It’s how we play.”
Rutgers sent the Hoyas to the line for 42 shots. They drained 30 of them.
Porter led the charge in that stat, going 15-for-18 from the charity stripe. His 15 points from the line alone topped all of his opponents.
Judge was the only Knight to reach double figures, notching 11.
Rutgers, on the other hand, did not reach the line often and failed to take advantage when it did.
The Knights took 15 free throws and made six of them, a 40 percent clip — their season average is 71 percent.
That created a disparity in scoring, which yielded a difference in offensive style.
The Hoyas — since they had support from 30 made free throws — were able to maintain their slow, relaxed, efficient style of offense. They took only 33 shots.
Most of that offense involved dumping the ball to Porter and letting him play the way they are used to. On Saturday that involved driving and drawing fouls.
“You can get to the hole and shoot free throws,” Porter said of sacrificing jump shots for dribble drives. “They’re free, so you want to shoot free throws.”
Rutgers, on the other hand, did not have the luxury of free throws. That led to the Knights taking 54 shots.
But while they took 21 more shots than the Hoyas, they only made five more.
And shooting 40 percent from the line and a 37-percent clip from the field is not going to beat the Big East leader.
Sophomore guard Myles Mack was the clear candidate to pick up the majority of the slack following fellow guard Eli Carter’s season-ending injury.
That has been confirmed by opposing defenses, which clearly have keyed in on the Patterson, N.J., native.
“He’s so good,” said Georgetown head coach John Thompson III. “[A nine-point night] is abnormal for him.”
Mack put up nine points for the second consecutive game, this time on 3-for-13 shooting. To make matters worse for Rutgers, Mack — the Big East’s best free throw shooter — did not reach the line once.
But he was not the only Knight to endure trouble against the Hoyas, especially around the basket.
On 10 offensive rebounds, Rutgers picked up only four second-chance points.
“It just helps your energy. It picks you up,” Rice said of made shots. “Every time we miss a free throw, every time we miss a put-back, every time we go soft, it takes away some of that passion and energy you have to have to defend Otto Porter and Georgetown.”
For updates on the Rutgers men’s basketball team, follow Joey Gregory on Twitter @JGregoryTargum.