Notebook: Rutgers overpowered by Maryland's depth in sixth straight Big Ten loss
The Rutgers men's basketball team's tandem in the paint of senior center C.J. Gettys and junior forward Deshawn Freeman are mainly known for being the engine that drives the Scarlet Knights' top 10 total rebounding attack and No. 3 offensive rebounding force this season.
But for the first 20 minutes of action against Maryland on Tuesday night, the front-court tandem known as Ghost Gang made its presence felt elsewhere — on the scoreboard.
Gettys and Freeman combined to score 21 of 28 first-half points, connecting on eight of the nine shots they attempted from the field. The duo, who tends to do most of their scoring inside and off offensive rebounds, scored in a variety of ways, as Freeman knocked down a long jumper from the top of the key and a 3-pointer from the wing while Gettys connected on a mid-range jumper and a hook shot from the post.
Even though the rest of the team had combined to a shoot a mere 3-of-17 from the field, Rutgers only trailed the Terrapins by 4 entering halftime thanks to the unconscious shooting display from Freeman and Gettys.
But while that front-count tandem was able to nullify an otherwise unfavorable offensive performance from the Knights, once Maryland found a way to neutralize them in the latter half Rutgers was left answerless.
The Terrapins stymied Freeman and Gettys in the second half, as they combined for a mere 2 points — connecting on just one of their eight shots from the field — and Maryland cruised to a 79-59 win at the Rutgers Athletic Center.
“They changed how they covered (Gettys)," said head coach Steve Pikiell. "They didn’t let him get any open looks, they double teamed him in the post and we weren’t able to get anything off that and capitalize on it."
While junior guard Mike Williams poured in all 14 of his points in the second half, most of them came after Maryland had already built itself a comfortable double-digit lead, which came as a result of the Terrapins' 17-6 run in the first five-plus minutes of the half. Five different players scored for Maryland over the course of that run, which was a microcosm of the solid depth play the Terrapins had against the Knights.
At the 4:08 mark of the second half, Maryland did not have a single player with double digits in the scoring column, yet the Terrapins had still amassed 70 points. Of the 10 players that saw playing time for Maryland, seven of them chipped in at least 8 points.
That balanced scoring and unselfish play was reflected in the assist column, as over half of the Terrapins' field goals were assisted.
“They got good bigs. I think they have talented guys that can shoot the ball. They score. They’re a tough team," Pikiell said. "I think they have elite, elite guards and elite guards cause a lot of problems. They get everybody involved and they did a good job of sharing the game, getting everybody involved."
Rutgers was unable to match that kind of balanced scoring, as just four of their nine players to play more than 10 minutes scored at least 8 points. Rather than distributed scoring down the lineup, the Knights generated most their offense from hot-streak spurts, first with Freeman and Gettys in the first half and then with Williams scoring 14 of their first 17 second-half points.
Save for Gettys, Freeman and Williams, who totaled 37 points, Rutgers scored 22 points on a 33 percent clip from the field. Take away Maryland's top three scorers, who accumulated 31 points, and the Terrapins totaled 48 points on a 47 percent shooting clip.
But while the Knights may have been outmatched by Maryland's depth on Tuesday, Pikiell was more concerned with the lack of energy he felt his team showcased in the final 20 minutes of what was ultimately Rutgers' 15th conference loss.
“I just didn’t like our energy in the second half," Pikiell said. "I thought we had good practices. I thought we came out with good energy to start the game. I knew we were playing an elite team that was hungry and that was desperate for this game. We had to match that for 40 minutes and we weren’t able to do that. We don’t have a margin for error. Every play is important to us. Every three, every call, everything’s important to us. Again, gotta give Maryland credit. They’re well-coached, they’re good. They beat us today and they were the hungrier team and that’s the disappointing part of it."