Notre Dame came out at around 9:45 and was perfectly willing to put the crowd--and the Scarlet Knights--to sleep. They were patient on offense and ran out to a sixteen point lead. Rutgers looked lethargic and hungover from the previous night's win over DePaul.
That changed in the second half, though it wasn't enough. Rutgers jumped out of the gate with a 7-0 run and worked hard to get back in the game. Austin Johnson was a beast down low, and the Irish didn't have an answer for him. Johnson scored 18 points.
Rutgers was able to cut the lead to 5. Multiple times.
But Pat Connaughton was unstoppable. He was able to get himself open multiple times and hit wide open 3s everytime Rutgers got to within striking distance. On one possession, Mike Rice was trying to sub in, but the refs allowed ND to inbound to a wide open Connaughton. Rice went ballistic. Pat was the Rutgers slayer tonight.
And, so, another season goes by the wayside.
Or does it?
In the postgame press conference, Mike Rice left the door open for Rutgers to compete in one of the postseason tournaments, be it the CIT or the CBI. Whether they accept the invite remains to be seen, but it would likely be a good idea. Anytime you can get another game or more practice, the better it is for the team.
And now comes the ultimate question: Is Rutgers better this year than last year? They stand at 15-16 and possibly more games await.
That question can't be answered right now.