By Matt Sugam
Leading by four at the half, Rutgers battled valiantly with Ole Miss (6-0) well into the second half. Then, with just under eight minutes to go in the game, The Rebels went on a few runs and quickly built a double digit lead with just under six minutes left in the game. Once Ole Miss imposed their will, the Scarlet Knights were never able to overcome the deficit, losing 80-67 in Oxford as the Rebels reeled off a 25-12 run to close out the game.
Rutgers (4-2) was once again led by Myles Mack (15 points). Dane Miller also had his best game of the season, scoring 14 points on 7-of-8 shooting. He also pulled down seven rebounds, dished out three assists and recorded two steals.
Here’s what head coach Mike Rice had to say following the game:
Rice’s opening statement: Probably should have been up a couple more points with how bad they shot free throws in the first half and we just couldn’t execute as well as we probably should have. We contained as much as you’re going to contain a tremendous offensive rebounding team. Defended them well in the first half. You got to be up eight to 10 points to have some cushion to defend against their runs. 55-55, I think it was around eight minutes and [Marshall] Henderson hits a shot in the corner where we just didn’t help off of Henderson and we just blinked. You don’t blink against this team and we certainly did and guys stepped up and made plays. I liked 75% of it, but the other 25% of it showed the weaknesses of this team which is a touch soft. We’re going to have to remedy that in the next couple of weeks to compete against some of the good teams we’re going to face throughout the year.
Q: Was there something they were doing in the first half? What were they doing to stay in it?
A: They were just dropping their head and going. And our gap defense wasn’t very good. Our one-on-one defense wasn’t very good, and a lot of it came off of offensive rebounds where our guys were getting pushed under and we react way too much and we don’t dictate nearly enough. We’re always the one reacting to the first hit. They’re lower. They’re thinking. They’re hitting first and that’s basically what happened in the first half. Now we did say no layups. When you look at their free throws, make no mistakes about it, there was no lay ups. We wanted to make them make free throws. Especially their bigs. They did a better job of just doing everything in the second half more efficiently.
Q: Eli Carter obviously did a good job getting to the line, but one of 12.
A: Not going to win many games with your best scorer going one for 12. Once the ball didn’t go in for him, but started to chase a little bit. Started to hunt a little bit and not share the game and not let the offense and his teammates help him out to get even better shots, but again, he’s going to be our leading scorer. Him and Myles. So he has to understand that when the ball doesn’t go in it’s the same. You can’t start hunting. You can’t start going one on five. You have to follow the formula and he certainly didn’t do that. But again, played hard. We’re not going to win any games when he goes one for 12.
Q: A lot of fouls – technical fouls – early in the game. How did that affect the rhythm for you guys?
A: None. It’s Big East-SEC basketball. It was an early conference game basically. Like [Ole Miss head coach] Andy [Kennedy] I don’t mind a little passion, a a little intensity. I think we need more of it to be honest with you. A little more togetherness. But that stuff – it’s part of the game. It’s par of being in a Big East or SEC where you’re going to have that type of intensity, that physicality. And they certainly bring physicality. They’re always hitting. When you have those veteran guys who understand hitting first is always better than reacting then you got something.
Q: 16 three point attempts tonight. Correct me if I’m wrong, that seems a little high from what you guys have done this season.
A: Sure. That’s settling. They’ll allow you to attack because they’re out in the passing lanes a little bit. You can get to the lane it’s just what are you going to do with Bucker? And I think some of our drives were immature. You can’t drive for yourself against a team like Ole Miss. You got to drive and penetrate to pass. These are the things that you work on with young guard. But again, making the same mistakes, that’s sometimes the sign of a bad player. So we have to figure that our. Are you a bad player or are you going to learn from this.