Seton Hall shellacks Rutgers for second straight year, 84-55, in Garden State Hardwood Classic
Even the extra juice of an in-state rivalry with a former Big East Conference foe couldn’t keep the Rutgers men’s basketball team up for the challenge Saturday afternoon.
Despite opening up hot from the floor with an early lead throughout majority the first half, the Scarlet Knights fizzled out before heading into the locker room down, 47-34, after a 32-14 run in the final 12:15 of the opening period.
Then the Pirates blew the doors open at the Louis Brown Athletic Center and ripped the hinges off.
The end result, an 84-55 rout by Seton Hall over Rutgers at the RAC, brought back flashes of the 81-54 nightmare last year at the Prudential Center in Newark.
“Effort wasn’t great tonight — mental effort wasn’t great,” said head coach Eddie Jordan. “But if you have mental effort, your physical effort is sort of second nature and will help you. If you’re not playing smart, you’re playing behind and you’re trying to catch up and that’s fatigue.
Jordan’s assessment is hard to disagree with.
On their home floor, the Knights (3-5) stood no chance against the Pirates (6-2) in the annual Garden State Hardwood Classic. That all started down low, where Seton Hall outmuscled Rutgers with points in the paint, 44-20.
Missing junior forward Deshawn Freeman (sore knee, out for two weeks) and sophomore center Shaquille Doorson (foot, out indefinitely) in the low post, the Knights had no answer for the Pirates on either end of the floor.
Rutgers relied on an early run to start the game behind streaky shooting from its guards in sophomore Mike Williams (team-high 16 points) and graduate transfer Omari Grier, but Seton Hall caught on soon enough.
Just as they did last year, Isaiah Whitehead and Khadeen Carrington served as Knight killers once more.
Whitehead didn’t quite match his game-high 25 points from last year, but the sophomore guard was 1-of-4 Pirates in double-figures to complement Carrington’s game-high 18 points on 6-of-13 shooting from the field off the bench.
“I feel like there was no containment by the guards. It was no, like, attempt to even come back and rebound — and that’s where it all fell apart,” said sophomore forward D.J. Foreman. “Whitehead might’ve not even had one of his better games. At the same time, he’s getting into the paint and he’s making opportunities for other people because he’s missing a shot or he’s diming them.”
Whitehead, as Foreman alluded to, made the real gashing came down low on crisp passing to break Rutgers’ defense down.
That most notably came on a pair of double-doubles from Angel Delgado and Michael Nzei. Delgado posted 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting and 13 rebounds, while Nzei mirrored his teammate’s mark with 13 points on 6-of-8 shooting to go with 12 boards.
Forced to adjust, Foreman slid from the 3 to the 4 in order to compensate for the loss of Freeman. But the sophomore had a limited impact for an undermanned Rutgers lineup, doing what he could to grab nine rebounds with his four points.
Seton Hall cashed in, winning on the rebound margin, 53-32, to set the tempo in game where the Pirates grabbed 18 offensive rebounds and notched 15 second-chance points.
“It was an all-around just bad defense — second half, more so,” Foreman said. “We just didn’t bring it second half … second half we just bombed it. It’s bad.”
With the loss, the Knights drop their fourth straight game in a recent rough patch.
But with the next non-conference contest coming soon with a Tuesday night matchup against Central Connecticut (0-6) at the RAC for a 6 p.m. tipoff, Rutgers knows it has to learn and turn the page.
“We just gotta keep learning. Everything gotta be a learning experience and not get down on ourselves, you know,” said freshman guard Corey Sanders. “It sucks to have to learn this way, but it’s how it happens. It’s still a long season.”
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