By Matt Sugam
HARTFORD, Conn. – When Kevin Ollie began game planning for Rutgers, he knew his team would have to slow down Myles Mack and Eli Carter. The sophomore guard tandem leads the Scarlet Knights in scoring, and Ollie lauded the duo earlier this week.
However, it was neither of the Paterson, NJ natives that the Huskies had trouble containing.
It was Jerome Seagears.
Although UConn’s emphasis heading into the game was on Mack and Carter, Seagears didn’t notice it.
“Not really,” Seagears said when asked if he felt there was more of a focus on the other two guards. “I just took what the defense gave me and just try to use the offense to my advantage and that was about it basically.”
It was an uplift Rutgers needed as Carter – Rutgers’ leading scorer – continued to struggle. But it wasn’t enough as Rutgers’ lost 66-54 at the XL Center.
And as much as Rice was pleased with Seagears’ performance, he’d like to see a more balanced performance with more of his team getting involved rather than one player burdened with carrying the scoring load.
“We can’t have one or two players. We need four or five players,” Rice said. “Our balance has gone out the window because guys are too inconsistent. I appreciate Jerome and his game, but you need more for victory in the Big East on the road.”
As for Carter – who’s struggled mightily in four of the past six games – Rice isn’t concerned about his leading scorer’s rut.
“I don’t worry about Eli,” Rice said. “He just has to play better. And that’s all.
“Again, Eli’s good. I’m not going to get down on any of my players. I’ve seen Eli be tremendous this year. He just has to figure out – he’s pressing right now, and he just has to breathe and let it come…He’ll bounce back. He’ll get back.”
He has to. Along with the rest of the team.
Rutgers is in the midst of a three game losing streak and has fallen to 11th place in the Big East.
“A little bit of a snowball effect with this team right now, but we’ll get back,” Rice said. “We have enough talents. We’re going to get back. And Eli’s good enough. He’s going to get back. It’s just you have to get yourself out of this rut and right now we’re in it.”
And one player already has in Seagears, whose early season struggles are now in the rearview mirror.
“I haven’t seen him that aggressive all season,” Austin Johnson said. “It’s good to see that we got at least a good thing out of this game and it’s good to see that we got Jerome back and I feel like he’ll definitely be able build on this and this will definitely be a boost to his confidence.”