Lack of offensive rhythm plagues RU

<p>Freshman point guard Jerome Seagears loses handle of the ball as St. Peter’s forward Darius Conley defends in the Knights’ loss Friday at the Louis Brown Athletic Center.</p>

Freshman point guard Jerome Seagears loses handle of the ball as St. Peter’s forward Darius Conley defends in the Knights’ loss Friday at the Louis Brown Athletic Center.

Dane Miller had seen the problems persist before. So when they resurfaced in the Rutgers men’s basketball team’s season-opening loss Friday to St. Peter’s, the senior wing knew it would take more than head coach Mike Rice to solve them.

“It didn’t really matter what [Rice] did,” Miller said. “He can’t make us shoot open shots. He can’t make us not shoot the ones we’re not supposed to take.”

In a 56-52 loss Rice said he did not forecast, the Scarlet Knights’ halfcourt offense trudged through 60 minutes at the Louis Brown Athletic Center. The Knights shot less than 36 percent from the field, including a 2-for-13 mark from 3-point territory.

But Rice pointed out more looming issues.

“If you can’t go in and run a play we talked about doing in the huddle, then you’re not with us,” he said. “That’s some of the things we’re going to have to find. Who’s with us? We’ll start one by one with each individual.”

Rutgers (0-1) suffered from a one-on-one syndrome on offense, which became a one-on-four problem, Rice said. St. Peter’s (1-0) was happy to oblige.

Despite trailing for the majority of the second half, a 3-pointer from guard Yvon Raymond with a minute left gave the Peacocks a permanent lead. The loss was Rice’s fourth in two seasons — the amount of time with this team’s roster makeup — to a mid-major program.

The problems were recurring.

“It’s the same thing. It’s a probably a little bit of a lack of buy-in,” Rice said. “Right now we’re a little bit too individual-oriented. I’ll have to fix that.”

Rice lamented team in-fighting and a growing disconnect with players following a Dec. 7 loss last season to Princeton. He cited a lack of listening. He had to undo what 18 years of basketball had taught his group of 18- and 19-year-olds.

With his roster virtually intact this season, Rice might have to do so again.

“We were trying to run away from people,” he said. “Mentally and physically, they dominated our players.”

Newcomer Wally Judge held his own.

The junior forward, on the court for the first time since transferring from Kansas State a year ago, managed a double-double in a team-high 33 minutes.

But the most meaningful ticks in the game went by without him, as Judge watched the last critical series with five fouls.

“We laid down,” he said. “We beat each other up in practice. … We push ourselves to the limit, and then we get out here and a little bit of adversity comes and we laid down.”

Rice expected more plays to run through Judge — one of the Knights’ only consistent offensive presences — in the second half. But abbreviated plays, lack of execution and other factors forced Judge to create his own offense.

The coaching staff simplified its scheme to fit Judge, Rice said, but often times, it was Rutgers’ offense as a whole that looked simple.

So the rehabilitation process begins anew. Rice did not expect it following a successful preseason, but little with the Knights has gone as planned.

“Somebody’s got to be a leader — not by saying anything, not by yelling or cursing anybody out,” Judge said. “Somebody has to take ownership for the lack of discipline this team has shown.”

For updates on the Rutgers men’s basketball team, follow Tyler Barto on Twitter @TBartoTargum.

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