For 30 minutes, Rutgers fans watched what they had hoped would be the norm for the past two years. Myles Mack lit up the scoresheet for the second game in a row, dropping 24--including 18 in the first half. Meanwhile, Kadeem Jack was just as good. He scored 12 and had 7 rebounds. He showed off thunderous dunks, a hook shot, and some all around toughness.
But, without Eli Carter, it wasn't enough. Rurgers blew a 12 point lead, mostly because the Wildcats wore down Rutgers with their press in the second half. At the same time, James Bell got hot from beyond the arc, and the referees decided tonight would be another game where Rutgers and Mike Rice have every call go against them. The second half was a parade of Wildcats at the free throw line.
But, ultimately, it was the same old, same old. Rutgers builds a big lead, and is rolling. In the second half, the opponent decides it's time to really start playing and methodically gets the Scarlet Knights to cough up the lead. Unlike, Saturday, where Mack went crazy and brought his team back from a big deficit only to exhale and give it up--Villanova didn't exhale when they got back in it. They poured it on even more, and lapped Rutgers.
In reality, Rutgers didn't truly have a chance to hold on to the lead. At the moment, they only have two trustworthy ball carriers in Jerome Seagears and Mack. Rice tried to lean on them, but they got worn down and started to make bad decisions out of exhaustion.
Someone else needs to step up. Dane Miller gave Ryan Arcidiacono fits in the first half defensively, but has decided to stop playing offense. The senior has disappeared, taking 1 shot and scoring 1 point (missing a crucial second free throw late in the game... again). Wally Judge is either playing more hurt than we know, or isn't as talented as he was hyped.
Meanwhile, Malick Kone and Austin Johnson filled their roles nicely, and continued to give Rutgers a chance.
In the past two games, however, a light has gone on--one that's highlighted why the Scarlet Knights have been struggling offensively. It appears Mike Rice made the wrong choice when deciding who his go to guy should be. Myles Mack--now--has shown some great play, knowing when to shoot and when to give up the ball. Mack should have been the focal point all year, and Eli Carter should have been the outlet option.
But, that's an "ifs and buts" scenario. One can only hope Mike Rice fixes that next year.
It's always "next year," isn't it, Rutgers fans?