Rutgers' second-half struggles highlight loss to Fordham
In its first trip to New York City since last year’s memorable Big Ten Tournament, the Rutgers men’s basketball team traveled to the five boroughs to take on Fordham for the third straight year.
For the first time in three years, the Rams (7-2) defeated the Scarlet Knights (5-4, 0-2) inside the historic Rose Hill Gymnasium for the 78-70 upset win.
Here are four takeaways from the blip in the road that happened in the Bronx, N.Y.
Where’d the defense go?
After giving up just 26 points in the first half and leading at halftime, Rutgers stumbled and let up a season-high 52 points in the second half to give Fordham and the rowdy home fans something to cheer about.
The Knights and sophomore guard Geo Baker had no answer for the Rams’ guard Nick Honor who stole the show, scoring 30 points on 10-17 shooting which included a 5-7 clip from beyond the arc in 38 minutes of action.
Changing it up
For the first time this season, head coach Steve Pikiell mixed up his starting lineup, going with freshman forward Montez Mathis over junior forward Issa Thiam.
Making his first start of the season, Mathis finished his day with 8 points, two rebounds and one steal in 25 minutes of play — the fourth-most minutes played by a Rutgers player.
Thiam, on the other hand, played 18 minutes and contributed 5 points, sinking his only 3-pointer of the day.
The shakeup in the starting five was most likely due to Fordham’s lack of size as Mathis is only 6-foot-4-inches as opposed to Thiam’s 6-foot-10-inch frame.
After making 26 3-pointers in their first two games, the Knights have cooled off dramatically from behind the arc. Nobody expected Rutgers to shoot the 3-ball at a 60-percent clip like it did at the beginning of the season — especially as the competition got stronger.
But with better passers and shooters on this year’s team than in years prior, a 4-16 shooting night from 3 seemed like it was in the rearview mirror. Yet, that’s exactly what happened.
The Knights’ big three shooters in Baker, Thiam and sophomore guard Peter Kiss went a combined 3-13 from deep with Baker going a season-worst 2-9 from 3. The trio finished the game with 23 total points.
On the bright side
Rutgers did have a few players that stood out in the loss. Junior forward Eugene Omoruyi continued his early season dominance with his fifth double-double in nine games. He finished with a team-high 19 points and 11 rebounds.
Freshman forward Ron Harper Jr. scored 10 points on 50-percent shooting (3-6) in just 17 minutes of play. He also added a block and an assist.
Coming off his career-best game, junior forward Shaq Carter had himself another good day, matching his career high with 8 points. His seven rebounds were the second most on the team and a new career high.
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