Cards’ full-court pressure stymies RU
Wally Judge’s put-back dunk was supposed to change momentum. After all, fans at the Louis Brown Athletic Center have gotten used to surprise victories against top-15 teams during the last four seasons.
Instead, Judge’s dunk, which tied the game at the start of the second half, prompted a 13-point Louisville run.
Instead of adding to its upset streak, the Rutgers men’s basketball team extended to a dubious one, losing, 68-48, its fifth loss in a row.
“They turned it up so high in the second half that it seemed like that was the plan,” said sophomore point guard Jerome Seagears.
The Scarlet Knights found catalysts in top-10 upsets a season ago, knocking off then-No. 10 Florida and then-No. 8 Connecticut at the RAC. Judge, a junior forward, appeared to follow the same model, awakening an impassioned crowd in the process.
But Louisville’s defense proceeded to press, and the Knights, in turn, pressed on offense.
Put-backs around the rim found the outstretched arms of Louisville shot-blocking center Gorgui Dieng. Backcourt turnovers led to Cardinal lay-ins, and what once appeared a résumé-builder quickly fizzled.
“No one is going to get us out of this funk except for us,” Rice said.
It has become a familiar pattern for Rutgers.
The Knights (12-9, 3-7) faced single-digit deficits in each of their last seven Big East losses. Rice insists the team has improved during that span, but improvement in the Big East usually comes with an asterisk.
Louisville (19-4, 7-3) has often been around to prove it.
Rice was ejected in the team’s 12-point loss last season at the KFC Yum! Center. An 18-point defeat to the Cardinals in 2011 served as the defining low point of a season filled with them.
Rutgers has scored less than 50 points three times in as many seasons. It has happened twice against Louisville.
“If you’re not on their talent level, they’ll give you some problems,” Rice said. “If you’re inconsistent, which my team is, that’s a bad sign because they’re going to take advantage.”
But Rutgers’ second-half performance last night could be even more disheartening, if only because the Knights stood their ground in the first half.
Rutgers’ low-post defense was arguably at its best all season, neutralizing Dieng and the Cardinals’ frontcourt size advantage. Derrick Randall emerged as a major catalyst.
The sophomore forward played 16 minutes and went blow-for-blow with Dieng, who scored two points in 34 minutes. Randall logged a season-high 17 minutes Jan. 30 at Cincinnati.
“They can’t move him,” Judge said of Randall. “He has to get a better feel for the game to be a complete player, but other than that, he’s a strong, physical guy. He doesn’t even know it.”
Randall showed similar poise last season against the Gators, containing Patric Young in a double-overtime thriller. But that is where the similarities end.
Louisville played ball control for the game’s final eight minutes, a 20-point lead already in hand.
Senior wing Dane Miller watched most it from the bench, a Gatorade towel wrapped around his neck and cupped across his mouth.
Little went right for Miller, who played only 18 minutes — six in the first half — and did not start for the first time in 44 games.
He has averaged 19 minutes during the Knights’ last three games, scoring four total points.
“He’s got to get involved in the ball game,” Rice said of Miller, who he said suffered an early-week ankle injury. “He’s got to put his stamp on the ball game.”
For updates on the Rutgers men’s basketball team, follow Tyler Barto on Twitter @TBartoTargum.