Men's Basketball: Knights continue second-half issues
Marquette entered last night’s contest with the Rutgers men’s basketball team as the No. 15 team in the nation.
It also sat one game behind league-leading Georgetown in the conference standings.
After a rocky start, the Golden Eagles stole the game from the Scarlet Knights as they earned a 60-54 win at the Louis Brown Athletic Center.
After the first 20 minutes, Marquette faced a 10-point deficit.
Reminiscent of Rutgers’ loss to Villanova on Feb. 18 — in which it also held a 31-21 lead at halftime — the Knights looked every bit in control against a tougher opponent.
But as was the case against the Wildcats, they experienced a dip in their intensity level, allowing the Golden Eagles to creep back into the game.
“Same story, same story,” said senior wing Dane Miller. “It happens every time, mostly every game.”
As the game approached the four-minute mark, Marquette guard Vander Blue erased what was left of the Knights’ lead with a 3-pointer.
Rice has discussed this issue all season. There have been several instances of Rutgers letting up when it held possession of a sizeable lead.
Cincinnati stared at an eight-point deficit Jan. 30 at the midway point, but downed the Knights by the same margin.
Rutgers fared no better against the Golden Eagles, as it saw its lead reversed and left with another Big East loss.
And as has been the response each time, Rice affirmed last night the team’s potential in improving at the end of games.
“We’re going to get there,” Rice said of his team’s inability to finish games. “We’re going to work on it. We’re going to work on execution, we’re going to work on ball fakes, we’re going to work on … all the things you do to finish games.”
But once again, Rutgers began the game with a fire it could not sustain.
Marquette gained control of the opening tipoff and sank the game’s first basket.
That was about all it did in the first half that provided support for its ranking.
The Golden Eagles allowed a Rutgers team that sits in the bottom half of the conference in field goal defense to hold them — the best shooting team in the Big East — to a 35.7 clip.
Meanwhile, they let an offense that owns a 40.5 percentage to exceed that average by nearly 18 points.
The only thing that has changed in Rutgers’ most recent games is the opponent. The storyline and ending have remained the same.
Thanks to a fractured right fibula, sophomore guard Eli Carter could do nothing more than look on from the bench last night as the Knights contended with the Golden Eagles, just as he had the previous three games.
The immediate solution became sophomore guard Myles Mack, who scored a career-high 28 points against DePaul after Carter went down against the Blue Demons.
He followed that up with a 24-point performance against Villanova.
But Rutgers needed someone else if it wanted to contend. Against Marquette, the Knights showed it was not going to have one person carry the load.
“Our offense is good as long as we stick to the plan and we’re aggressive and we’re disciplined,” said senior forward Austin Johnson. “As long as we can do that … we’ll be successful.”
When the first half ended, six Knights had at least four points. In addition, they saw an unlikely face at the top of the scoring list.
Sophomore forward Derrick Randall — who ended the game with a season-high eight points — led the first-half charge with six points, only four short of his career high of 10, set in his freshman campaign.
For updates on the Rutgers men’s basketball team, follow Joey Gregory on Twitter @JGregoryTargum.