By Matt Sugam
PISCATAWAY – Rutgers (11-4, 2-2 Big East) fell to No. 21 Cincinnati (14-3, 2-2 Big East) 68-58. Here’s what to take away form the game.
1. First half shooting woes
Rutgers didn’t break double digits until almost 16 minutes into the game. Their 15 point first half – where they shot 21 percent and were 0-of-6 from three – was just one point higher than their lowest scoring output in a Big East half which came in 2003 against Pitt. Things got a bit better in the second half as Rutgers was able to shoot 47 percent, but they’d already dug themselves into too deep of a hole.
2. Bearcats outmuscle Scarlet Knights
All over the court, at every position, Rutgers was getting pushed around by Cincinnati. Whether it be on picks or boxing out for a rebound, Cincy held a clear advantage form a physicality standpoint. While it’s well know that the Bearcats are one of the most physical teams in the Big East, the Scarlet Knights needed to do a better job holding their own.
3. Eli Carter Struggles
Carter finished 1-of-12 from the field after going just 3-of-13 against St. John’s in the last game. Yes, Carter is the best pure scorer on the team, but his play can be erratic. Whether it be taking threes that are way too deep at inopportune times, or trying to dribble through double teams, Carter does some questionable things on offense. And when he’s struggling like he has been the last two games, it’s Mike Rice’s job to rein him in.
After a 2-1 start in the Big East for just the third time in school history, Rutgers lost out on a chance to become the first team in program history to start 3-1.
Rutgers head coach Mike Rice
“They played harder and that’s why they got the victory.”
“We have to learn from this. We’re going to be in this spot again, taking the next step forward. We’ve got to learn that, in the Big East, if things aren’t going well you don’t rely on the jump shot. You have to score in the paint, you have to draw contact, you have to get to the free-throw line. It’s not like we stopped playing hard —we held a tremendous team to 37 percent shooting. Our pressure was effective in the second half, we just never finished a possession off in the second half. Playing a little soft in the first half and a lot of not finishing in the second half was a deadly equation.”
Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin
“Rutgers has a very good team. Mike’s done a tremendous job with the program.”
“They’re really good. I think Rutgers has a really good basketball team. They got athletes, they got size, they got guard play, they’re extremely well coached…They’re a good team. We got to play them again which I’m not excited about.”
Rutgers senior forward Austin Johnson
“They definitely made it a real tough, grind it out type of game which can test your spirits. When you feel like you’re rolling, you have momentum and they break that, it can be troublesome, so we have to focus in on our rebounding and loose balls.”
“I definitely think they hang their hat on their physicality. They’ve always been like that. And they showed it today.”