Rutgers runs out of gas in 84-55 loss to Seton Hall

<p>Sophomore guard Mike Williams dribbles down the court after intercepting a Veer Singh pass intended for Isaiah Whitehead in Rutgers 84-55 loss to Seton Hall,&nbsp;converting the steal into a layup on the other end. He finished the game with a team-high 16 points.</p>

Sophomore guard Mike Williams dribbles down the court after intercepting a Veer Singh pass intended for Isaiah Whitehead in Rutgers 84-55 loss to Seton Hall, converting the steal into a layup on the other end. He finished the game with a team-high 16 points.


For the first four and a half minutes of the Rutgers men’s basketball team’s showdown with in-state rival Seton Hall, it appeared the Scarlet Knights couldn’t miss.

After giving up six points in the opening two minutes, the Knights went on an 18-5 run to take a 20-11 lead with 12:59 minutes remaining in the first half. While the lead didn’t appear insurmountable for the Pirates, who average 72 points per game, it looked like Rutgers was going to run away with the contest the way it was shooting the ball.

The Knights (3-5) opened the game 8-for-11 from the field, including 2-for-3 from beyond the arc.

Sophomore guard Mike Williams scored nine of Rutgers' first 20 points, hitting four of his first six shots.

But he, like the rest of his team, went from red hot to ice cold in what felt like the blink of an eye. Williams scored just two points in the final 13 minutes of the first half as his team went 5-for-17 to close out the half.

“In basketball, sometimes the ball just doesn’t fall the way you want it,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Pirates (6-2) were just getting started. A 23-7 run gave Seton Hall a lead it never came close to relinquishing with 5:17 remaining in the first half.

The Pirates' dominance continued into the second half.

A 15-7 run to start the second stanza turned the game into a blowout.

Seton Hall outscored Rutgers, 35-21, in the game’s final 20 minutes to ensure a second straight blowout win over the Knights, the first time it's happened in the rivalry since the 1987-88 seasons, when the Pirates won by scores of 92-72 and 96-70, respectively.

At the 7:06 mark of the second half, head coach Eddie Jordan called his second timeout of the period. Williams had the ball in his hands as he dribbled up the court. When the referee blew his whistle to signal the timeout, he clutched the ball between his hands and slammed it on the floor, demonstrating the frustration he and his team felt.

“We’re just a little flustered and aggravated because we started off great,” Williams said. “We’re facing a lot of obstacles right now. We’re on a four-game losing skid.”

***

Losing is never fun.

Losing in a blowout can crush a team’s morale.

Being blown out by your fiercest rival for the second year running at home?

“It leaves a sour taste in my mouth,” Williams said.

Adding insult to injury is the fact he has to hear about the two straight losses to the Pirates from his friends on the other side of the court. 

Williams played with Seton Hall sophomore guard Khadeen Carrington at Bishop Loughlin High School in Brooklyn for three years, with both earning all-New York City honors in their senior years. Carrington had the last laugh Saturday, finishing with a game-high 18 points.

While the final result wasn’t what he wanted, he enjoyed the experience of seeing some familiar faces.

“I gotta hear it from Khadeen (Carrington) and Desi (Rodriguez),” Williams said about the extra sting this loss provided. “It was very fun (to play against them) because we have our little side talks on the court, telling each other, ‘Watch what I’m aboutta do right now.' It was fun being out on the court with them again.”

Williams stopped having fun by the time the first 20 minutes expired as his team was down 13 going into halftime.

But the game isn’t over until the 40 minutes expire and the final horn blows.

“We just need a momentum-changing play,” sophomore forward DJ Foreman said of what was going through his mind as his team is down 20 in the final 10 minutes.

The comeback was improbable, but not impossible. But for a young team like the Knights, there was no light at the end of the tunnel and they crumbled with plenty of ticks left on the clock.

“We started giving up a bit in the last 10 minutes,” Foreman said. “We just need to realize that 10 minutes is a lot of time. Teams have came back and we should’ve realized that and slowed it down, regained our composure and maybe we’d have a chance, but we gave up.”

***

Williams, who led the Knights with 16 points, was one of the few bright spots for Rutgers. He was able to bounce back from his lackluster performance against Wake Forest last Monday, beating his total six points against the Demon Deacons with seven points in the first five minutes against Seton Hall.

His partner in the backcourt, freshman Corey Sanders, also bounced back from his performance against Wake Forest. The Lakeland, Florida, native finished with 14 points on 5-of-9 shooting and provided six assists, five more than his one against Wake Forest.

But Sanders could’ve finished the game with a double-double had his teammates converted on some of the open looks he gave them throughout the game, especially in the beginning of Seton Hall's first run.

But no matter how many times his teammates don’t sink the shots he provides, he’ll keep sending the ball their way.

“I’m gon’ keep passing the ball how I pass the ball,” Sanders said. “My assists gonna come if they making their shots. I’m getting them the ball, so all I can do is do my job and that’s my job.”

The next game on the schedule for Rutgers is Tuesday against Central Connecticut at the RAC. Using what they learned against the Pirates, the Knights look to bounce back as a unit like Sanders and Williams bounced back individually against the Blue Devils.

“Basketball’s an up and down game. You have highs, you have lows,” Williams said. “Hopefully we can just turn it around Tuesday.”

For updates on the Rutgers men’s basketball team, follow @briannnnf and @TargumSports on Twitter.


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