Knights drop game against league’s worst
The Rutgers men’s basketball team dropped its second decision last night to a Big East team ranked dead-last in the conference standings, falling at Providence, 78-67.
The Scarlet Knights last won at Providence in 2000.
The Knights (12-11, 4-6) narrowed the Friar advantage to 4 points with less than three minutes remaining, but Providence sophomore guard Bryce Cotton hit back-to-back 3-pointers to widen the gap.
The Friars (13-10, 2-8) boasted four scorers in double figures, led by junior guard Vincent Council, who scored 11 points and recorded 14 assists. Council had all of his points and 10 helpers by halftime.
With the loss, Rutgers failed to win consecutive games in Big East play. It won a pair of games against Connecticut and Pittsburgh in early January, but could not string together a win streak since.
The defeat dropped the Knights to 1-4 on the road in the conference, compared to a 3-2 record at the Louis Brown Athletic Center.
Rutgers trailed, 40-26, at halftime before it trimmed its deficit to less than 10 points with less than 10 minutes left at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center. It used an 11-2 run to cut the Providence lead to 4, but the Friars again withstood the Knights’ attack.
The Knights held a 19-15 advantage early, but Providence closed the half on a 25-7 run.
Sophomore forward Gilvydas Biruta tallied 13 points and 11 rebounds, his first double-digit scoring outburst since Jan. 1 at South Florida. But Biruta shot only 4-of-13 from the field.
Freshman point guard Myles Mack led the Knights with 16 points, but he missed eight of his 14 shots.
Sophomore guard Mike Poole chipped in 13 points off the bench, shooting 6-of-9 from the field in the loss.
The Knights shot 50 percent from the field late in the second half, but their early-game scoring woes ultimately cost them another conference win. They remain a win away from tying their Big East season total from last year.
Freshman forward Kadeem Jack earned increased minutes, logging 11 and recording a block and a steal. Fellow freshman Derrick Randall, a starter, played a team-low nine minutes for head coach Mike Rice.
Providence rode high-percentage shooting to the victory, making 52 percent from the field for its second conference win. It doubled the Knights in assists with 20, taking advantage of fast-break opportunities against the Rutgers press.
While the Knights own four wins against competitive Big East teams, they also claim three losses to teams with little pedigree in the conference.
They lost, 69-64, on Jan. 25 to then-last place DePaul, which had only one Big East win at the time.
They fell by two points against South Florida, which has yet to emerge as a postseason threat since joining the league in the mid-2000s.
The road does not get easier in the future for Rutgers.
Louisville welcomes the Knights to the KFC Yum! Center on Saturday, before they return to Piscataway on Wednesday to take on in-state rival Seton Hall.
The Pirates started the Big East campaign 4-1 before dropping four consecutive games in conference play.
Rutgers travels to Notre Dame the week after, followed by a home matchup Feb. 19 against No. 2 Syracuse.
A Feb. 22 contest against top-15 Marquette closes the Knights’ tough stretch.
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