Rutgers' effort not enough as No. 9 Iowa runs away, 90-76
After a rough start conjured up instant flashbacks to the worst home loss in program history that the Rutgers men’s basketball team had just endured three nights prior in the 50-point shellacking against No. 24 Purdue, Eddie Jordan’s squad finally showed a pulse.
With the Scarlet Knights inching closer to full strength — albeit with just eight scholarship players — after freshman forward Jonathan Laurent’s return from a mild concussion, they initially gave the 4,209 in attendance at the Rutgers Athletic Center a reason to stay deep into the second half.
But as the night went on, Rutgers could only ride the spark for so long.
Despite fighting their way back to a tie ballgame late in the first half before hanging tight periodically in the second half, the Knights (6-14, 0-7) simply could not keep up with No. 9 Iowa in a 90-76 loss on Thursday night in Piscataway.
The latest casualty marks the 22nd consecutive defeat for Jordan and his team in Big Ten play, a mark still dating all the way back to last season.
However, before Jordan fielded any questions after the game, he made it clear that effort wasn't what the Knights were missing.
“I just wanna make a statement: I was proud of our team tonight,” the third-year head coach said. “… The last thing we wrote on the whiteboard pregame was ‘pride,’ and we played with a lot of pride for 40 ticks. I’m proud of my team and we had to perform as we had, withstanding what the score was.”
But as much as Jordan’s players exhibited an improvement in effort over the course of the evening, it wasn’t enough to escape with that elusive Big Ten win.
The Hawkeyes (15-3, 6-0) proved way too much for Rutgers, running away with the contest midway through the second period, when they increased their cushion to double digits and largely kept it there until the game clock hit zeroes across the board for the 14-point cushion at the end.
Corey Sanders, who followed up his career-high 23 points from Monday night against the Boilermakers with 12 points and nine assists, noted that Rutgers did all it could to stay up with Iowa.
But the visiting team ultimately proved why it sits near the top of the conference — and the country — when it takes the hardwood.
“I think we played great ‘D’ for the most part,” Sanders said. “They were able to make shots that we were leaving them open, and that was a big part of something that we messed up. But for the most part, I feel like we were playing pretty hard out there.”
That was evident as ever, starting with Peter Jok’s game-high 29 points with a 5-for-9 clip from 3-point land leading the way for Iowa. Anthony Clemmons and Jarrod Uthoff each added 20 points apiece, headlining a Hawkeyes attack that refused to let up.
Sophomore guard Mike Williams posted a team-high 17 points on 7-for-15 shooting, and Laurent followed with 14 points on 6-for-10 from the field to aid a Rutgers scoring response that featured four players in double figures.
But as much as Williams and Laurent scraped and clawed throughout the duration of the evening, none of it gave the Knights a legitimate chance to dethrone the Hawkeyes.
Laurent, who provided a spark with aggressive attacks into the lane and to the rim, knows Rutgers still has a long way to go before it can go the lengths of putting an end to a skid that currently sits at seven games since the start of the conference slate.
In the meantime, the Orlando, Florida, native gains more time to get acclimate as the Knights' next game isn't until next Wednesday, in a 7 p.m. ET matchup in Ann Arbor at Michigan.
But now that he is back, he hopes to help the Knights take the steps necessary in order to get closer to competing — as daunting as it may be to experience on or off the court.
“Just watching it, it was kind of hard, you know,” Laurent said of the previous five Big Ten games that Rutgers lost by an average of 31.4 points. “I just wanted to come back and do as much as I could to help boost my teammates, try to get a win and obviously, trying to break that losing streak right now.”