Rutgers fails to consistently attack paint until second half
With the Rutgers men’s basketball team facing a team that ranks second in the AAC in perimeter defense, one would think its offensive game plan would have revolved around attacking the basket.
While the Scarlet Knights did manage to score 14 of their 21 points last night in the paint in the first half, the Knights took a staggering one free throw attempt during the half — a stat that could have made a big difference in Rutgers’ 64-59 loss against No. 22 Memphis.
Although the Knights could argue a couple of calls not going their way, Rutgers chose to shoot some difficult 3-pointers rather than test the Tigers down low.
The Knights saw much more success in the second half when the team attacked the lane, forcing the Tigers post players to defend and often leading to trips to the foul line.
Rutgers outscored Memphis, 38-36, in the second half, getting to the line nine more times and converting six of them.
Had the Knights maintained their aggressive play style from the opening whistle and shot better than 4-for-20 from the 3-point line, the outcome may have been different.
“We got to the free throw line, we missed some layups that we would like to have and missed some free throws,” said head coach Eddie Jordan. “But I liked the way our personality was for the last 25 minutes.”
Senior forward Wally Judge was left out of the Knights’ starting lineup to begin the game following a minor team violation.
The violation gave sophomore forward Greg Lewis his first start of the season and second of his collegiate career.
Although Lewis contributed during his four minutes and 22 seconds in the first half — contributing an assist to junior forward Kadeem Jack on the Knights’ only basket — Jordan was given no choice but to bring Judge into the game, with Rutgers trailing, 12-2, early on.
Judge came off the bench energized, scoring an early basket and collecting three rebounds. But he began to sulk his head following a couple of costly turnovers and missed an easy layup attempt that would have pulled the Knights within 9.
Lewis started the second half, contributing another assist, but was once again withdrawn early for Judge with Rutgers down, 27-36.
But Judge continued to struggle, with Jordan resorting to a smaller lineup. Jack played center and junior guards Malick Kone and Craig Brown saw vital minutes down the stretch.
Kone finished second on the team with 10 points, while Brown got to the free-throw line five times in the second half.
“Malick played really great,” Jack said. “He stepped up when he needed to and gave us a big lift off the bench and made a lot of tough plays for us.”
The loss gives the Knights their 13th consecutive defeat to a ranked opponent and are now 0-5 this season against ranked teams.
Rutgers gave a much better showing than its previous matchup against Memphis on Feb. 4, when it lost, 101-69, in Tennessee.
In terms of doing what is necessary to defeat a ranked team, the Knights once again are left looking for answers.
“I have no clue,” Jack said of what needs to happen to beat a top-25 program. “I think that’s something coach Eddie Jordan is going to have to figure out.”