No. 2 Michigan State storms away from Rutgers in second half
As the home crowd fled from their seats for the exits and into the night, chants of "Go Green, Go White" echoed throughout an emptying Rutgers Athletic Center.
With the game long over, Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo unloaded his bench. His reserves chucked up shots and flew to the rim for dunk after dunk, only adding to Rutgers' agony as its second-to-last appearance of the season in front of its home crowd at the RAC ended in another blowout.
As the No. 2 Spartans poured it on for the 97-66 rout of the Scarlet Knights on Wednesday evening in Piscataway, it was an end result all too familiar for Rutgers' third-year head coach Eddie Jordan.
"Most of it was we guarded as well as we could," he said. "Some of it was we had defense breakdowns. We didn't guard it as well as we should have."
After netting a school-record-tying 17 3-pointers in their last matchup against Rutgers at Breslin Center in East Lansing on Jan. 31, Michigan State (25-5, 12-5) nearly broke the program record once again with 16 treys on a 52-percent clip from deep.
Bryn Forbes was a one-man wrecking crew in that department for the Spartans, breaking the single-game Big Ten Conference mark with 11 treys leading to all of his game-high 33 points.
It added to an ongoing plague from behind the 3-point arc for Jordan's squad, which gave up 17 treys to Northwestern last Saturday as the Wildcats shot 60.7 percent from deep.
For the Knights (6-24, 0-17), it was only a continuation of an ongoing struggle. On the season, Rutgers' skid now sits at 17 and its conference losing streak reaches 32 after the latest casualty.
"It's been a tough season," said freshman forward Jonathan Laurent, who added 14 points on 6-for-7 shooting. "It's been a lot of games that we had, but we'd let it slip away."
Despite the final score resulting in a 31-point margin, Rutgers was initially in the thick of this one.
Fueled by freshman guard Corey Sanders' return from a four-game suspension, the Knights kept pace with the Spartans for much of the first half.
The Lakeland, Florida, native led Rutgers with a team-high 19 points and dished out six assists, supplying an early run to give his team a slim lead before MSU took it back for a 43-41 edge entering the locker room.
"I feel like I played pretty good, couple of shots was in and out. That would've been better for me," Sanders said. "But, you know, we still lost. So we're still waiting to recover on that. But I feel like, individually, I played pretty well in my first game back."
With nine scholarship players at his disposal in the rotation, Jordan rotated 6-foot-10 redshirt freshman forward Ibrahima Diallo in the mix with 6-foot-9 senior center Greg Lewis for reinforcements in the paint against the deep and physical Spartans.
But with sophomore forward D.J. Foreman and Laurent taking the bulk of the minutes, Sparty eventually proved why they project to make a deep run to the Final Four later in the month.
Izzo's team had enough toying around with the Knights, storming out of the gates in the second half for a 16-3 run in the first 2:58. Rutgers, which shot 64 percent from the field in the opening period to keep up with MSU, went cold with a 28.6-percent clip from the field on 8-for-28 shooting.
"I thought the hero of the game in the second half was Eron Harris," Izzo said. "He started guarding, he did a much, much better job on Sanders in the second half and I thought that got our running game going and we started making threes."
Regardless of how the Knights got here, they now stare the brutal reality of a winless record in conference play right in the face. With that, Jordan's job security intensifies.
But as Senior Day looms for Rutgers on Saturday with a 1 p.m. tip-off at the RAC against Minnesota (8-20, 2-14), Jordan assures that part isn't on his mind.
"I'm gonna be here tomorrow and we'll see," Jordan said. "Again, that's not my concern. My concern is come in tomorrow and get better tomorrow and then get better the next day and see if we can win a game on Saturday. I'm not into predictions ... It's a process and we all knew it was gonna be not just two years, not just three years and we knew that coming in. When I signed my contract with (University President) Dr. (Robert) Barchi, we knew it was gonna be a process and that's how I look at it."