Eddie Jordan learned a lesson Saturday night.
He needs Shabazz Napier.
Well, not Shabazz personally, but someone just as talented. Rutgers took on the UConn Huskies Saturday night and hung around, hung around, hung around, until the very end. Trailing by only 5 at halftime, the Scarlet Knights even rolled off a 8-0 run to take a three points lead off the backs of two threes by Jerome Seagears and a lay-up by Craig Brown.
But it wasn't enough because the best player on the floor decided it wouldn't be enough.
Napier, who was held to 1 of 6 shooting in the first half, went off in the second half. He scored a total of 26 points, 20 of them coming after Drums of Thunder rocked the house. Napier couldn't be stopped, using picks, screens and driving to the hoop and getting to the foul line. Yes, some of the fouls were phantom, but Napier is so good, he commanded the respect of the refs. Napier shot 7-7 from the free throw line in the second half.
Meanwhile, Rutgers best player, Myles Mack couldn't get it going. He scored 6 on two 3 point shots, and at times seemed to be favoring his left arm. He didn't dribble left until late in the game. Jerome Seagears and Kadeem Jack (19 points, 11 rebounds) tried to pick up the slack, but it wasn't enough. Jack was 11-14 from the line, himself.
But Jordan saw what he needed, and this Rutgers team didn't have it. This team needs everyone going on all cylinders every night. And lately, they haven't been.
That said, the answer to Jordan's problems may have been sitting right behind the bench all night, and several other nights this year. Isaiah Briscoe, Rivals #17 player in the nation, is Jordan's number 1 target for the class of 2015. He's the kind of player Rutgers never lands, but Jordan is doing his best to get. In fact, Jordan's postgame comments about Shabazz Napier almost seemed to be directed toward Briscoe.
Jordan said, "If you have a great player like that, you open the floor up and let him do his thing. When he’s got it cooking, it’s a hard thing to guard because he’s a good passer, he sees the floor, he’s unselfish yet he’s an assassin."
That's what Jordan needs on this team, and Briscoe could be that player, though right now it seems to be a long shot.
But that's two years off, either way. For now, Jordan has to deal with what he has. A team with talent, but one that needs to be "on" all the time. The next chance to win is against winless-in-conference Temple. Rutgers beat them already, back on January 1st.
But this will be a desperate team in Philadelphia.
Can Rutgers rebound from this loss and hand the Owls another one?
They won't have Shabazz Napier to help. They'll have to do it themselves.