Rutgers unable to break skid in 87-63 loss to Nebraska
The phrase, “basketball is a game of runs,” was as relevant as ever in the Rutgers men’s basketball team’s latest contest.
The issue for the Scarlet Knights was the runs belonged to just one side following an even start.
An 18-3 run for Nebraska to cap off a back-and-forth first half brought all the momentum to the home team, who eventually defeated the Knights (6-18, 0-11) comfortably, 87-63, after a dominant second half.
The loss is Rutgers’ 10th loss by at least 20 points this season and its 26th straight in Big Ten play.
But for a 10-minute period, everything produced on the court meant nothing as the sold-out crowd of 15,695 at the Pinnacle Bank Arena went silent.
Nebraska's senior forward Shavon Shields fell awkwardly on his upper back and head after going up to contest a shot in the paint by sophomore forward D.J. Foreman.
Shields lied motionless on the hardwood for several minutes as he was attended to by the medical staff with his mother and head coach Tim Miles by his side.
The chilling silence was broken with a standing ovation by the crowd as Shields was wheeled off the court in a stretcher.
ESPNU reported the Olathe, Kansas, native lost consciousness for a few moments following his fall but had movement in his extremities minutes after leaving the court.
“First of all, our hearts and our concerns go out to Shavon Shields and his family and his health," said head coach Eddie Jordan in his opening statement following the game. "I spoke to Tim (Miles) as they carted him off, and Shavon had feeling, his eyes were alert so that’s a good sign, and we hope he recovers very soon."
The scary incident occurred midway through the second half, where the Cornhuskers (13-11, 5-6) outscored Rutgers 42-27. The final 20 minutes had no lead change, a much different pace than the first half with six lead changes and 3:17 of equilibrium.
Nebraska played as well as it did when it travelled to Piscataway and handed Rutgers its worst ever loss at the Rutgers Athletic Center — a record that stood for a week — while the Knights were unable to improve from the last meeting.
Rutgers failed to score between the 7:35 mark of the first half and the 18:02 mark of the second half, turning the ball over five times in the final eight minutes of the first half.
The scoring drought began immediately after Corey Sanders sat on the bench for the first time all game.
The freshman guard picked up where he left off against Illinois — when he scored the most points by a freshman in a single game in program history — in Lincoln, scoring 16 of the Knights first 30 points. Sanders finished with 28 points, pushing his Big Ten freshman leading scoring average to 15.9 points per game. In Big Ten conference contests, he’s averaging 18 points per game.
Sanders scored the first four points of the game to propel Rutgers to an 7-2 lead. Nebraska answered right back with a 7-2 run of its own before the first media timeout.
Out of the stoppage in play, both teams found their stroke from the floor, each hitting seven of their first nine shots once play restarted.
The difference in the period came from the foul line.
Rutgers went to the line six times in 1:24 after the under-12 timeout, making four of the shots to help push its lead to 33-27 at the under-8 timeout.
It would be the Knights final lead of the contest.
Jordan pins his team's inability to score for the final 7:35 of the first half to Miles' adjustments in changing to a zone defense.
"As far as we’re concerned, I like the way we started the game. We did a lot of good things early," Jordan said. "Tim (Miles) threw a zone at us, and we got stagnant and didn’t make fundamental plays that were there in front of us. They got on a big run and that was pretty much the game.”
Senior guard Bishop Daniels was the only Knight, aside from Sanders, to reach double-figures as he scored 13 points.
Daniels took the place of sophomore guard Mike Williams, who had been keeping up with Sanders in scoring as of late.
After outscoring his freshman partner in the backcourt in both games played in the state of Michigan against then-No. 12 Michigan State and Michigan last week, Williams scored 15 against Illinois before fouling out in the first overtime period.
In Nebraska, the Brooklyn, New York, native was only able to muster up 6 points.
Rutgers now has a week off to prepare for Ohio State. The Buckeyes come to Piscataway next Saturday as the Knights look to avenge a 94-68 loss in Columbus earlier in the season.
With the 25th straight season with a losing record guaranteed for the Knights, Jordan continues to look at the development of his players for next season.
Watching Sanders put up 18 points per game in Big Ten competition is a welcome sign of promise for the third-year head coach.
"Our emphasis is for our young guys to get experience, understanding how to play in a great arena like this in the Big Ten," he said. "We get everyone back and hopefully healthy next year. We have pretty good prospects coming in and hopefully this time next year, we’re singing a different tune.”