Rutgers drops regular season finale at Michigan
The last time a basketball team from New Jersey visited Ann Arbor, Michigan, it resulted in a conference-less New Jersey Institute of Technology team upsetting a then-ranked Michigan on its home floor.
On Sunday, the Rutgers men’s basketball team was hoping to continue the trend.
However, it was apparent by halftime that the only trend the Scarlet Knights (10-21, 2-16) would be extending was their now 14-game losing streak, falling to the Wolverines, 79-69.
But even that is a very misleading final score.
Michigan shot the lights out of the gym both figuratively and literally, with the bulbs illuminating the Crisler Center burning out at the 9:08 mark in the first half moments after a made three-point basket.
The Wolverines (15-15, 8-10) finished the game shooting over 50 percent from the field and went 14-of-31 from three-point land.
Michigan’s hot shooting was largely due to the standout play of Aubrey Dawkins.
The freshman guard stole the show on Senior Day with a career-high 31 points on 10-of-15 shooting.
He was also unconscious from beyond the arc, shooting 8-of-11.
Dawkins, who averages only 6.6 points per game, admittedly caught Rutgers by surprise with his display.
“He really surprised us, because we’d never seen him do anything like that on tape,” senior guard Myles Mack told reporters postgame. “We knew he could shoot a little, but 8-of-10? That’s a breakout game for a great shooter.”
Not to be outdone, forward Max Bielfeldt, the lone senior honored that day, registered 14 points and 11 rebounds for his first career double-double in his final home game.
The result was a perfect sendoff for the Wolverines who entered the matchup winners in just one of their last eight games.
The same could not be said for the Knights, who, despite a team-high 21 points from Kadeem Jack — the most he’s scored in Big Ten Conference play — were second-best throughout the evening.
Rutgers started the game well enough, showing fluid movement in its offensive sets and matched Michigan for the opening five minutes.
But the Knights struggled to contest jumpers and guard in transition which led to easy buckets for the Wolverines.
Once Michigan switched to zone, Rutgers' offense became stagnant, resulting in empty possessions and bad turnovers that led to easy fast break points or half court violations off poor passes.
On the other hand, the Wolverines continued to have a hot hand with the Knights still giving open looks and by halftime led, 47-28, while shooting 60 percent from the floor and converting nine of their 17 three-point attempts.
Rutgers didn’t fare much better in the second half as the deficit grew to almost 30 points before head coach Eddie Jordan pulled Jack and Mack for the remaining eight minutes.
With all underclassmen on the floor, the Knights did manage a 19-0 run to end the game, but by that point the result was all but decided with Michigan’s reserves playing in the final moments.
Though the team shot a respectable 52.6 percent from the field, their woes from beyond the arc could not match the Wolverines, going 4-of-14.
Junior guard Bishop Daniels was the only other Knight to score in double-figures with 11 points.
With Rutgers’ latest loss, it now enters the Big Ten Tournament this coming Wednesday at the bottom of the conference with hardly any momentum to build on.
While Michigan’s lights out shooting can explain the Knights' latest stumble, it’s only a matter of time before the lights are out on their inaugural season in the Big Ten.
For updates on the Rutgers men’s basketball team, follow @SeanStewartRU and @TargumSports on Twitter.