Rutgers suffers eighth straight loss despite strong start
Six days removed from its latest game, the Rutgers men’s basketball team traveled to Ann Arbor to face Michigan as fresh as a team in the thick of a gruesome conference schedule could hope to be.
The Scarlet Knights looked to snap a 22-game losing streak in Big Ten play against the Wolverines and for the first 15 minutes, it appeared they were close to pulling it off.
But once the horn blew to signal the end of the third media timeout of the first half, things returned to the status quo and it was curtains for the Knights.
Despite a combined 32 points from guards Corey Sanders and Mike Williams in its first consistent effort in Big Ten play since a seven-point loss to No. 19 Indiana in the conference opener, Rutgers remains winless in Big Ten play following a 68-57 loss to Michigan Wednesday night.
The Knights (6-15, 0-8) looked well-rested and prepared once the game tipped in Ann Arbor.
Rutgers got off to a quick start, taking an early 6-0 lead. They hit five of their first seven field goal attempts to shoot out to an 11-7 lead into the first media timeout.
Coming out of the first break in action, Rutgers cooled off almost immediately, going scoreless between the initial media timeout and the second at the 11:48 minute mark. It then scored just five points between the second and third media timeouts.
Michigan was unable to punish the Knights during their scoring drought as it also struggled from the field until the penultimate stoppage in play. The Wolverines shot a freezing 5-for-20 from the floor, including a two-for-12 clip from beyond the arc, in the first 12 minutes.
But coming out of the third media timeout, Michigan came to life.
The home team went on a 17-4 run to take its first lead 15 minutes into the game, shifting the momentum as the 11,529 in attendance were given something to cheer for as they took a 34-27 lead into the locker room at the half.
The Wolverines closed out the half on fire from deep, hitting four of their next six attempts from downtown, and they took the momentum into the second half.
Behind 5-for-10 shooting from 3, Michigan took its first double-digit lead a tick past the 17 minute mark of the second period.
Rutgers continued to stick around, closing the deficit to five points after an emphatic dunk from Sanders on a fast-break following a steal. The Lakeland, Florida, native, who played all 40 minutes for the first time in his career, had a game-high four steals.
But the Wolverines killed any hopes of a comeback with a 15-6 run immediately following the dunk.
While Michigan’s improved shooting played a factor in establishing a comfortable cushion, the Knights’ poor shot selection and decision making on the offensive end made the mountain easier to climb for the Wolverines.
After Williams, who finished with a team-high 17 points before fouling out in the final minute, hit his team’s first attempt from downtown, Rutgers missed its next six 3-point attempts before Sanders hit the final attempt from deep in the first half.
The Knights would go on to make one of 10 shots from beyond the arc in the second half, mimicking the lackluster display their opponents had in the first half.
With this loss, Rutgers’ losing streak in conference play grows to 23. The Knights return to action in the same state Sunday, traveling to East Lansing to take on No. 12 Michigan State.
Rutgers hopes to earn its first Big Ten win since the biggest upset in program history over then-No. 4 Wisconsin on Jan. 11, 2015.