Rutgers suffers 16-point collapse in 61-59 loss at St. John's
JAMAICA, N.Y. — For the first time in his coaching career, Eddie Jordan dropped a term he had never used before.
"I don't know if I can teach heart," he said. "They just out-hearted us ... I've never used that term in my coaching career, but I used it tonight."
Senior guard Bishop Daniels reacted to his head coach's words just as bluntly.
"It sucks, man," Daniels said. "I mean, at the end of the day, you don't wanna hear no coach say that. We step on the court as young men every time trying to battle, and you give your all. You don't wanna hear nobody tell you somebody got more heart than you."
But Jordan's first time was most fitting and perhaps the only way to describe the Rutgers men's basketball team's 61-59 collapse at St. John's on Thursday night in Queens.
The Scarlet Knights (2-1) squandered the opportunity to improve to 3-0 for the first time in seven years, crumbling after controlling all aspects of the game for majority of the 40 minutes on the hardwood.
Rutgers held a lead that ballooned as large as 16 points with 14:52 remaining in the second half before eventually blowing it away down the stretch. On top of that, the Knights held the advantage on the scoreboard for 34:29 — which equates to 86.25 percent of the time in the ballgame.
Daniels led all scorers with a career-high 21 points on 10-of-17 shooting off the bench to go with eight rebounds, but his production was absent as Rutgers fell apart in the second half.
His overall performance in his tie for a team-high 33 minutes on the floor was almost enough for the Knights — and he was nearly the hero when he hit what would have been the game-winning 3-pointer from the top of the key had he got it off a second earlier — but it wasn't enough to lead his team out of Carnesecca Arena with a victory.
"That don't mean nothing if we ain't winning the game," Daniels said of his career-high effort. "At the end of the day, we gotta win. That's our main focus."
Days after posting a team-high 34 minutes with 15 points and five assists in his promising debut against Howard on Sunday, Corey Sanders regressed with obvious growing pains in his second time out on the floor for Rutgers.
The freshman guard pitched in four assists, but struggled to produce for the Knights on the scoring end with just five points on 2-of-8 shooting from the field.
What made matters worse was his 1-of-6 mark from the free throw line, setting the tone for a fundamental area of the game where Rutgers shot itself in the foot, converting on just 5-of-14 (35.7 percent) from the charity stripe.
The Red Storm (3-0) were in the bonus late, but the Knights were unable to cash in from 15 feet away.
Perhaps the most crucial miss came on D.J. Foreman's one-and-one opportunity with 22.8 seconds remaining in the game.
The sophomore forward could have tied it back up for Rutgers as it trailed by two at 61-59, but his clank off the back iron was the exclamation mark in an area of the game that came back to haunt his team as St. John's completed its comeback.
Outside of the struggles from the free throw line, the Knights struggled to maintain high-percentage shots in the second half. Rutgers attacked the rim for 20 points in the paint over the course of the first half before relying on forced shots from further away down the stretch.
"I feel like that was a key part to the game," Foreman said of getting to the rim. "We relied on jump shots, a lot of passing around instead of attacking gaps and St. John's capitalized that."
Foreman, who had nine points and eight rebounds, hit the nail on the head. The Red Storm chucked up shots in the first half, shooting 9-of-32 (28.1 percent) from the field before becoming more aggressive and bullying the Knights on the inside as they clawed their way back from a double-digit deficit.
With a quick turnaround approaching as Central Arkansas looms back home at the Louis Brown Athletic Center for Saturday at 5 p.m., sophomore guard Mike Williams knows that he and his teammates have no other option than to put the meltdown behind them and learn from it.
"It's a big learning experience because I feel like we're a sleeper," Williams said. "Even though we lost this game, I feel like people are gonna start taking us seriously because that's on the road. We had them by 16 ... we just made some errors, but it's basketball. You're gonna make errors. We just gotta capitalize on them."
For updates on the Rutgers men's basketball team, follow @GarrettStepien and @TargumSports on Twitter.