RU faces overwhelming odds
Time is running out on the Rutgers men’s basketball team.
The Scarlet Knights are locked in to playing on the first day of the Big East Tournament, and a chance at an at-large bid for the NCAA Tournament is a thing of the past.
But several of its losses were not bad ones.
Only four of its’ Big East defeats were by more than 10 points, and it kept pace with nearly every team for at least the first half.
Records do not show how hard a team fights or how close the games are.
Rutgers has three regular season games remaining with at least one conference tournament game left to prove its 11 Big East losses do not accurately show what kind of team it is.
“I hate to talk about close games because all anybody cares about is wins and losses,” said head coach Mike Rice. “But I have to. I have to go back and look at last year, stats, games. Even having our leading scorer out, we’re close. We just have to become more consistent.”
Unfortunately for the Knights, their three remaining games are not against easy opponents.
No. 8 Georgetown begins the stretch, followed by No. 22 Marquette and then in-state rival Seton Hall concludes the regular season.
But Rutgers is not concerned with the Golden Eagles or the Pirates.
Its focus is solely on tomorrow night’s matchup with the Hoyas (22-4, 12-3), with whom the Knights (13-13, 4-11) have evidence they can keep pace.
Georgetown visited the Louis Brown Athletic Center on Feb. 9 in one of the several Rutgers losses that could have had a different ending.
“I feel like we can definitely compete with those guys and get a win down there,” said senior forward Austin Johnson. “We just have to be disciplined. If you’re not disciplined down there, they’ll definitely expose you.”
That is exactly what happened last time out.
The game was tied as the clock ticked past the five-minute mark and the two teams were separated by just one possession as the game entered the final minute.
But as he has had a habit of doing, Georgetown forward and player-of-the-year candidate Otto Porter put his mark on the game.
He did the same Wednesday night against UConn, as the Morley, Mo., native sank a layup to put the Hoyas up by one with under 10 seconds remaining in double overtime.
Odds are he will factor into tomorrow night’s game as well.
“To me he’s the national player of the year,” Rice said. “He’s as consistent as anybody’s been all year.”
Rutgers, though, does have one player who has emerged in recent games that Georgetown has little experience with.
Sophomore forward Kadeem Jack played only seven minutes in their last meeting. After the Knights’ last game, a loss to Providence, Rice called Jack consistent.
Against the Friars, Jack picked up his first-career double-double as he recorded a career-high 15 points and 10 rebounds.
“He has always had the potential,” Rice said of Jack. “Now he’s putting what he’s learning into games.”
Jack will help against a team not known for its dominance in the paint, but more for its guard play.
Hoya guards, along with Porter, can handle the ball and penetrate, opening opportunities for other players.
Jack, the team leader in blocks with 29, expects to figure in to helping control and limit those opportunities.
“I try to make my length a factor every game,” Jack said. “I’m trying to deflect shots and get a lot of blocks, and just try to make it hard for the offense to score. If I can’t do that, I can’t really play the game.”
For updates on the Rutgers men’s basketball team, follow Joey Gregory on Twitter @JGregoryTargum.