Once again, Rutgers took a punch and was unable to get back up. After twice climbing back from 10 point deficits to get to within 3 and then 5 at halftime, the Scarlet Knights were unable to take advantage in the 2nd half. Their first two possessions resulted in turnovers and Fighting Irish baskets. Then Jack Cooley took over, no one was able to hit a shot for Rutgers and the game was over.
That's the story of the game. Rutgers has now lost 4 in a row, longest losing streak of the season. But what's shocking isn't the losses.... but the reaction by the fans.
More after the jump...Most fans started this season preaching patience. No seniors. Seven freshmen, including an injury to Kadeem Jack that would keep him out until the Big East season. The schedule was rough. Transfer Wally Judge was a year away. The whole team was a year away from contention.
And then the Florida game happened. And UConn. And Pittsburgh.
Expectations started to rise. Some infamous message board posters began to suggest an NCAA run was possible. Now the losses are coming and the over-reactions are riding in. At least 2 fans reacted by saying Coach Mike Rice needed to really look at himself or the Scarlet Knights would be searching for a new coach. More commenters went after Rice at the bottom of this STAR LEDGER article.
And now, I ask, what happened to patience?
One of the comments I read revolved around someone asking why Rice was able to take last year's undermanned team and making them competitive and now this team doesn't compete.
First of all, this team is competing. They followed the game plan in the first half against Notre Dame and attacked the paint. They didn't shoot 3s out of control.
But the senior thing is important. When the going got tough, Jonathan Mitchell was able to make a big shot last year. Mike Coburn and James Beatty settled down the team. The rest of the team fell into line. And remember, that team got blown out several times as well--mostly due to it being undermanned.
This team is making freshman mistakes. Are they frustrating? Yes. But when the ball is in the hands of freshman point guards most of the time, that's going to happen. The team has shown a ton of flashes, with more big wins this year than last. But they are still learning.
Dane Miller and Austin Johnson are learning how to lead.
The big men are developing.
It's going to come. Mike Rice is doing yeoman's work here. He's not rebuilding a program. He's building a program that was ravaged by bad chemistry, bad fundamental teaching, and a ton of transfers before he got here. It's going to take more than 2 years to really get rolling.
Are these losses frustrating? No doubt.
Should it put Mike Rice on the hot seat because of it? No way.
It's happening. Slowly but surely, Mike Rice is still turning things around.