Eddie Jordan, Myles Mack attempt to find positives amidst Rutgers' losing streak
The Rutgers men’s basketball team is reeling right now, and some frustrations are beginning to mount within the program.
But not if you ask second-year head coach Eddie Jordan, who continues to downplay the fact the Scarlet Knights haven’t won a game in nearly a month following Jan. 11’s historic upset over then-No. 4 Wisconsin.
“I don’t have a losing streak in my mind,” Jordan said following Rutgers’ (10-15, 2-10) eighth-straight defeat Sunday against No. 20 Ohio State. “I’m not even concerned about a streak. I understand where we are, and I understand what’s happening, but every day is a fresh day — a day to get better, to cherish the position you’re in.”
That upbeat perspective is among few positives the Knights can cling to at this point given their remaining schedule.
Five of their final six regular season games come against the top-six teams in the Big Ten standings, beginning Thursday against Purdue, which has knocked off three ranked conference opponents.
The outlier — March 7’s finale at Michigan — is unlikely to offer much solace either. Despite losing their leading scorer for the season, the Wolverines held the Knights to their second-lowest scoring output of conference play in Michigan’s four-point win Jan. 20 in Piscataway.
What does it all mean?
If it doesn’t climb out of its rut soon, Rutgers could eventually succumb to Northwestern — the only team with fewer conference wins than the Knights — and hit rock bottom for the last-place seed in next month’s Big Ten Tournament.
It is a difficult reality for the Knights to fathom, knowing they were minutes away from improving to 3-2 in the Big Ten before squandering a late lead Jan. 14 at then-No. 14 Maryland.
Little has gone right since.
“Of course it is,” senior guard Myles Mack quipped when asked Sunday if losing is getting to him. “Nobody wants to lose. We just came out and thought we could possibly win this game [against Ohio State]. It just didn’t happen today and it hasn’t happened in a while, so it’s kind of frustrating.”
And yet, Mack insists the team’s morale remains high.
After going undefeated at St. Anthony High School (New Jersey) in 2010-2011, the captain has been through worse times than this in four years at Rutgers.
“We still have games left, so if we put our heads down, nothing good is going to happen,” Mack said. “We still have the conference tournament, so we’re just looking forward from here.”
It is a part of a new program culture Jordan has routinely preached since inheriting a disastrous situation following former head coach Mike Rice’s player abuse scandal in 2013.
“I tell them, ‘If there’s any frustration, turn that into determination,’” Jordan said. “We try to coach them the right way. We’re very respectful and we push them. We challenge them; we say the right things. … We don’t curse, we don’t get in anybody’s face and we remind them that this is the way that this staff is going to coach, and you have an opportunity to learn and get better.”
The Knights are staying patient with that message, even if it is becoming tougher and tougher with each loss.
“Nothing’s changed. We’re still coming into the gym, working hard every day,” said junior guard Bishop Daniels. “The challenge now is more of the X’s and O’s, and trying to figure out what it is that we need to do to get better [by] breaking down film, going out there and Jordan teaching us the different things of what we need to be doing and correcting.”
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