Carter slump spells RU fate

<p>Sophomore guard Myles Mack drives against St. John’s guard Jamal Branch. Mack picked up the scoring load with 17 points during sophomore guard Eli Carter’s five-point outing.</p>

Sophomore guard Myles Mack drives against St. John’s guard Jamal Branch. Mack picked up the scoring load with 17 points during sophomore guard Eli Carter’s five-point outing.

Two high-volume scorers took the Louis Brown Athletic Center court last night, but soon after, their paths diverged. 

St. John’s guard D’Angelo Harrison proudly puffed his chest following each basket en route to 20 points, while Eli Carter did his best to keep up with Harrison’s team-high 15.3 shot-per-game average.

He matched Harrison — the two combined for 28 shots — but little else added up in the Rutgers men’s basketball team’s 72-60 loss to St. John’s.

Carter was not made available to the media after the game.

“We have to address some situations,” said head coach Mike Rice. “If you’re not scoring, there are other parts of the game you can excel at that can help your team, and that goes with a lot of our players. Do something, make a play for your team.”

Sandwiched between 23 and 20-point performances against Pittsburgh and Notre Dame, respectively, Carter managed to shoot only 8-for-35 during a three-game span.

The sophomore guard led the Knights (12-6, 3-4) in scoring last season with 13.8 points, but averaged 11.7 shots per game. The latter is up to 12.4 this season, entering last night’s game.

He scored his first points nearly 29 minutes into the game, but not before missing his first nine shots. He promptly converted his next 3-point attempt.

“Our leading scorer, he wasn’t putting the ball in the hole,” said sophomore point guard Myles Mack of Carter, who shot 1-for-14. “Nights like that happen, and it happened tonight. I think that’s one of the main reasons why we lost.”

The first 20 minutes promised the type of close game both teams have become accustomed to in their last three seasons. St. John’s found itself — however improbably — ahead, thanks to a slew of turnovers behind its half court. The Red Storm went on a 17-0 run that spanned each half.

Rice said earlier in the week St. John’s (12-7, 4-3) reminded him of his 2011-2012 team because of its inconsistency. Carter and senior wing Dane Miller likely gave Rice another flashback.

Both went scoreless in the first half, and each is susceptible to long lapses on offense, especially if they do not convert early shots. Carter went 0-for-6 from the field in the first half and committed four turnovers, while Miller took only one shot. He finished with three.

Carter entered the game shooting 41 percent from the field this season and only 30.8 percent from 3-point territory, five percentage points down from his freshman campaign. He did not play during the game’s final minutes, as Rutgers trailed by single digits.

“Putting the ball in the bucket is affecting the way he’s doing other things when he’s on the floor,” Rice said.

Little went right for the Knights on an evening in which they shot only 36.5 percent. But Carter’s shot total and body language served as a harrowing reminder of how much Rutgers depends on its leading scorer.

If a silver lining remains, it is that Mack nearly compensated.

The 5-foot-9 Mack led the Knights with nine first-half points and finished with a team-high 17. He has done so this season with remarkable efficiency, shooting 52.9 percent from the field and 49.3 percent beyond the arc entering last night.

He shot 6-for-16 from the field against St. John’s and sank four free throws, where his conversion percentage is among the nation’s best. But he could not prevent a pair of gunslingers a chance to out-do each other, even if only one came with ammunition.

“When we were winning and Myles and Eli were scoring 20 and 25 points a game, it wasn’t disapproval,” said junior forward Wally Judge. “Now that we’re losing, it’s just how the ball rolls. They’re our leading scorers, they’re supposed to shoot.”

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

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