Long time fans of Rutgers basketball must have felt like they were watching a re-run of nearly every road game in the past 12 years. Hang tough and lose late.
Rutgers hung with a very good George Washington team, but this time it wasn't the defense to keep them in it. It was the defense that kept them out of it. Despite 26 points from Myles Mack and 23 from Jerome Seagears (off the bench), Rutgers could not get a stop or a rebound (especially a rebound) when it needed one.
As has been the pattern so far this season, Rutgers got down late in the first half, and dug themselves and even deeper deficit in the second half, falling to as many as 9 points. But they continued to battle and hustled. The guards were lights out from 3 point range, hitting shots within the offense--not just chucking. It was a sight to see and a fun game to watch--if you ignored the other half of the battle.
Too often, Rutgers big men were outmuscled in the paint. Whether it was not boxing out, or not being able to stop Isaiah Armwood (the former Villanova player) down low. Every time the offense got RU close, the defense would give up an offense rebound leading to either an easy bucket or a long 3.
The referees didn't help either. At one point, Nemanja Mikic caught Myles Mack in the face with an elbow and Mack was called for the foul. Much like Drexel, GW played a physical game and got away with it. Meanwhile, Rutgers holds a reputation for being a team that fouls and it hurts.
So, now Rutgers sits at 4-5 (really 3-5... does Stillman even count?) with two more difficult games (against Seton Hall and Princeton) on the horizon. This is the tipping point for the season. Win both and maybe the team gains some confidence. Lose both and it's a long way until March.
Eddie Jordan needs to wake this team up on the defensive end. It's time to gang rebound. It's time to get stops.
Otherwise, long time fans of Rutgers basketball can just watch re-runs instead.